13 Africa and Middle East cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2016

Dubai Mall ViewUpdated and expanded for 2016, the Africa and Middle East Backpacker Index once again shows that travel is quite inexpensive to many popular cities, but some in this area are among the most expensive in the world. Generally speaking, Africa and most of the Middle East get very little tourism compared to the rest of the world, so one major problem is infrastructure. In other words, there may be a few international-standard hotels in the larger cities, but there aren’t many hostels or quality budget hotels.

Many people who travel in this region do so partly because it hasn’t been well trodden like Europe or most of Asia. Those travelers are probably best off with traditional guidebooks because there just isn’t much information online, at least that gets updated regularly. Fortunately, adventurous backpackers can spend a long time in this region and get very good value to go along with unforgettable experiences.

We’ve added 3 new cities for 2016

This year we added Arusha and Zanzibar City, which are two main tourist hubs in Tanzania, along with Nairobi, Kenya. These cities are all well suited to budget travelers, partly as springboards to popular nearby attractions.

How the Backpacker Index works

Prices for most things are fixed and certain, but prices for a “budget lunch” or a pint of beer can vary depending on whom you ask. Still, our estimates are based on a lot of research, and should be very close if not right on.

Costs for each city

  • One night in the cheapest bunk at the least expensive hostel with a good location and good reviews
  • Two public transportation rides per day
  • One paid/famous attraction per day (Every city is loaded with free things to do for budget-conscious travelers, but here we take the average cost of a major attraction in each city for each day.)
  • Three “budget” meals per day.
  • Three cheap, local beers each day as an “entertainment fund.” Non-drinkers might have dessert and coffee or attend a local music performance instead, so this is a general benchmark that should be proportional for each city.

Africa & Middle East Backpacker Index for 2016

1Cairo, Egypt (Cheapest)

Tourism to Egypt, or at least Cairo, has pretty much collapsed since the 2011 protests and the political uncertainty since then. We are still waiting for things to stabilize so tourists can visit without constantly keeping on top of the news. As one of the world’s truly must-see destinations, it’s fortunate that Cairo is also very cheap for most people. Guided trips to the Great Pyramids and other nearby sights can add a bit to this total, but even then they can be quite cheap. If you can avoid alcohol here (which is easy because there are so few bars) or buy drinks retail, the total will be even lower.

  • Currency: Egyptian pound
  • Cheap/good hostel: Hola Cairo – 53.70/night
  • Transportation: 2.00
  • Meals: 34.80
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 54.00
  • Attractions: 60.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: EGP204.50 – US$26.15/day

>>>Cairo prices and weather

2Fes, Morocco

Prices in Marrakech and Fes/Fez are similar, at least now that Fez has more affordable hostels. Much of the time spent on trips to Moroccan cities will be spent wandering the markets in the old city, so those who can resist some of the world’s best salespeople can get by on very little if they avoid souvenir purchases. And unlike many other places in this part of the world, alcohol isn’t all that hard to find or too expensive, so party people can drink up without spending a fortune.

  • Currency: Moroccan dirham
  • Cheap/good hostel: Riad Verus – 59/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 126.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 30.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MAD226 US$27.48/day

>>>Fez prices and weather

3Marrakech, Morocco

The differences between Fez and Marrakech are minor for the casual visitor, and it might not even be worth seeing them both if you can visit something else in Morocco instead. Marrakech has many more hotels to choose from, and now it even has some cheap and good hostels, but generally prices in the two cities are about the same. This same price range is typical for Casablanca (don’t bother) and Tangier as well, with some of the smaller towns being even cheaper.

  • Currency: Moroccan dirham
  • Cheap/good hostel: Rainbow Marrakech – 80/night
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 126.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 60.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MAD285 – US$29.44/day

>>>Marrakech prices and weather

4Arusha, Tanzania

ArushaAs Tanzania’s main tourism hub for those who plan to visit the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Kilimanjaro or Mt. Meru, Arusha is a popular place to land and spend some time. Fortunately for visitors, the tourist infrastructure here is quite friendly and inexpensive, so it’s a place that some people tend to linger in. You might also end up spending some time in the country’s largest city, Dar es Salaam.

  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Cheap/good hostel: The Greenhouse – 32,545/night
  • Transportation: 800
  • Meals: 18,000
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 6,000
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TZS67,345 – US$30.98/day

>>>Arusha prices and weather

5Zanzibar City, Tanzania

StoneTownIf you want to visit the island of Zanzibar then you’ll be coming through, and probably spending time in the area called Stone Town. This is another of Africa’s main tourist cities where visitors will have quite a few choices when it comes to accommdation and food. Things here are quite inexpensive by international standards, so you won’t need to rush if you’ve come all this way for a visit.

  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Cheap/good hostel: Baby Bush Lodge – 39,055/night
  • Transportation: 800
  • Meals: 14,400
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 6,000
  • Attractions: 8,500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TZS68,755 – US$31.63/day

>>>Zanzibar City prices and weather

6Dakar, Senegal

To be honest, it’s hard to gauge expenses in all of Sub-Saharan Africa because there is so little budget-travel infrastructure in most places, but these should be a good rough estimation. Research indicates that those who are on the tightest budgets can get by okay on very little, though not at the same standards that are available in most of the rest of the world. “International standard” hotels continue to be quite expensive in this part of the world, so there will be a big jump in daily expenses for those who need more comfort and luxury.

  • Currency: Communauté Financière Africaine Franc
  • Cheap/good hostel: Annexe Kings Plaza 6,372/night
  • Transportation: 300
  • Meals: 8,400
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 2,400
  • Attractions: 2,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: XOF19,472 – US$33.52/day

>>>Dakar prices and weather

7Amman, Jordan

While Amman may not be a classic destination all by itself, it’s the key staging area for trips to Petra and Wadi Rum, so it’s a popular stop which is also quite cheap. Even the tours to those popular attractions in the desert are very reasonable so this is a good budget stop for those in the region.

  • Currency: Jordanian dinar
  • Cheap/good hostel: Bdeiwi Hostel & Hotel 4.19/night
  • Transportation: 0.70
  • Meals: 8.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 9.00
  • Attractions: 2.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: JOD24.29 – US$34.21/day

>>>Amman prices and weather

8Cape Town, South Africa

Most people’s biggest expense for South Africa will be in getting there, since obviously it’s not particularly close to any other popular backpacker stops. Fortunately things are relatively cheap once you arrive, especially considering the quality. Cape Town comes in comparable to a city in the cheaper half of the Europe list, and if you aren’t interested in the expensive attractions it’s a real bargain. The currency came down quite a bit in 2015 so it’s now more affordable than it has been in many years.

  • Currency: South African rand
  • Cheap/good hostel: Zebra Crossing – 170/night
  • Transportation: 15.80
  • Meals: 204.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 120.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: ZAR554.80 – US$34.89/day

>>>Cape Town prices and weather

9Nairobi, Kenya

NairobiNairobi is a huge city that may not have too much for typical international visitors on its own, but it’s still quite popular as the entry point for those coming to the region for safaris and similar tours. It’s quite expensive compared to most of the rest of this part of Africa, and it has a well-deserved reputation as being at least a bit dangerous. As a result, many guests prefer to be picked up straight from the airport by a large hotel and spend their time on hotel grounds as they prepare to head out on safari.

  • Currency: Kenyan Shilling
  • Cheap/good hostel: Nairobi Airport Stopover House – 1,306/night
  • Transportation: 60
  • Meals: 1,260
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 600
  • Attractions: 500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: KES3,726 – US$36.60/day

>>>Nairobi prices and weather

10Beirut, Lebanon

When trouble fades into memories, Lebanon is justifiably popular, with great nightlife and plenty to see during the day. It’s much cheaper than Tel Aviv, so it’s a good choice to spend a bit of time in without breaking the bank. Please note that Beirut is much closer in price to the cheapest city on this list than it is to the 3 cities just below. In other words, it’s pretty affordable for most people.

  • Currency: Lebanese pound
  • Cheap/good hostel: Hostel Beirut 25,500/night
  • Transportation: 4,000
  • Meals: 11,400
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 8,400
  • Attractions: 3,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LBP52,300 – US$34.64/day

>>>Beirut prices and weather

11Tel Aviv, Israel

Much of Tel Aviv is very European, so it makes sense that this seaside resort town lines up in price with a typical European party city. Visiting Jerusalem or other popular destinations nearby will usually cost less per day, so Israel shouldn’t be too problematic for most budget travelers and backpackers. Alcohol has become quite expensive due to recent tax increases, so this is yet another place to consider being a teetotaler.

  • Currency: Israel new shekel
  • Cheap/good hostel: Florentine Hostel 82.25/night
  • Transportation: 13.80
  • Meals: 69.60
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 66.00
  • Attractions: 50.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: ILS281.65 – US$72.59/day

>>>Tel Aviv prices and weather

12Dubai, UAE

No surprise to see Dubai this far down the list, and things could be worse if not for a sort of parallel economy that allows for cheap meals along with the local workers. Those sticking to just the hotel district and shopping malls will spend much more, with alcohol being a particular budget-killer, so this is a good place to experiment with being a teetotaler if you can manage. The only hostels here are quite expensive, so sharing a cheap hotel room might be better value.

  • Currency: UAE dirham
  • Cheap/good hostel: Central Hostel Dubai 106.50/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 62.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75.00
  • Attractions: 20.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: AED289.90 – US$78.99/day

>>>Dubai prices and weather

13Abu Dhabi, UAE

AbuDhabiAs close neighbors it won’t be a shock to learn that most things in Abu Dhabi cost about the same as they do in Dubai, except that there are no hostels at all and very few cheap hotels. The good news is that the most interesting things, such as the stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque, are actually free to visit. Fast food in malls or on back streets is much cheaper than the hotel restaurants.

  • Currency: UAE dirham
  • Cheap/good hostel: Nehal by Bin Majid Hotel (hotel) 134/night sharing a double
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 74.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75.00
  • Attractions: 40.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: AED327.40 – US$89.21/day

>>>Abu Dhabi prices and weather

Also check out Backpacker Indexes from the rest of the world

12 Responses to “13 Africa and Middle East cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2016”

Mia says:

“The differences between Fez and Marrakech are minor, and it might not even be worth seeing them both if you can instead visit something else in Morocco instead..”


this is simply not true. i just lost 82% of my respect for this website.



    Thanks for your thoughts on this, but I’m not sure you are considering it in the same way I was. My point was and continues to be that if you are going to make two stops on a Morocco trip, you can get a better feel for the country if you choose at least one thing other than these two large touristy cities. Most visitors (rightly or wrongly) head to the souks when in either city, and they are pretty similar in Fez and Marrakech for first-time visitors. -Roger

      Kish says:

      Dear Roger ,

      I guess you should give a though to Oman also.
      Its a beautiful country to visit.


      Yheah, right! ..and get yourself kidnapped and sold to terrorists because the price the lot are ready`n willing to pay for an
      American or U.K. citizen is 10,000 Euro or U.S.D. These people play for keeps, you starry-eyed optimist. + Do you really think God will part the red sea for you or break the chains and send angels to cause guards to fall asleep whilst you walk out of prisons? That money would change the future of an entire family, pay doctors to save children’s lives in those back roads villages and end yours



        It sounds like you have a lot of experience traveling through the 50+ countries of Africa. Sorry about your experiences getting kidnapped, but I assume it worked out okay if you are still able to surf the web and such. I’m sure future visitors to this article will take your thoughtful warnings seriously. Much appreciated. -Roger

Adnan says:

Actually to speak UAE and is one of the most diversified and westernised economy in middle east sometime refer to Las-vegas of the middle east particularly dubai. I really doubt that this idiot who is commenting is reading about which he doesnt find interesting.. and does not want to do..

SBadwy says:

Hi Roger!
Im planning a trip to Morocco this summer with a friend. We’re planning on backpacking and were on a little bit of a budget – and by little bit i mean a tight budget lol. Do you have any advise you could give us to save money on our trip and still get to enjoy what Morocco has to offer?




    You’ll find Morocco to be quite cheap compared to Europe and places like that, and I would guess that you can get by reasonably well on about US$30 per day per person if you need to. There are hostels with dorm beds in all places that attract decent numbers of tourists, and food can be quite cheap if you put effort into finding it.

    I’d say my main advice is to seek out the meals that are offered to the locals rather than the tourists. Hostels usually come with breakfast. For lunch and dinner you’ll find tourist-oriented restaurants with English (and French) menus that offer meals for between US$5 and US$10, but the locals will be buying sandwiches and hot dishes that will cost more like US$1 to US$2. There will usually be no English language menu and sometimes it’s just a cart on the sidewalk with no menu. Once you can find the places where the local working people eat you’ll be able to get meals for very little.

    Alcohol is not available in most places in Morocco and it’s not cheap where it is offered, so skipping that would save money. There are also shared taxis that are confusing at first, but quite cheap for getting around, including long distances between cities. Hopefully this helps a bit. Have a great trip. -Roger

Marcus says:

What about Iran? How are prices in Tehran, Shiraz,…?



    Iran is one of many countries that I don’t have any data on, partly because so few Western tourists are going there these days. I’m actually in Dubai at the moment, and I don’t have anything on Doha or Muscat either. If someone has enough experience in these places to help me create a page, I’d pay them for it. Until then, Iran is another blind spot to go along with Pakistan, Afghanistan, (all the stans, really), Bangladesh, Paraguay, Moldova, Belarus, and quite a few others. I hope to add many of these in the future. Thanks, and sorry that I don’t have it yet. -Roger

      Marcus says:

      I understand. I’ll be in Iran in October/November for 3 weeks (in/out via Tehran). Not sure exactly about the route but Shiraz is set as well as Isfahan. If I can help you, leave me a note.

        Sian says:

        On the surface, Shiraz isn’t all that lovely, but it has a wonderful ‘ambience’. So much so that on two visits (the last in 2007) I gave Isfahan a miss in favour of Shiraz.
        Another great place to visit is Yazd, a desert city further east but very manageable.
        Go to a site called ‘thorntree’, look on the Iran branch for up-to-date info. And if you’d like to send me a pm on that site my handle there is mothercourage.


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