10 Africa and Middle East cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2015

Dubai Mall ViewUpdated for 2015, the Backpacker Index for Africa and the Middle East still remains a modest undertaking. Most of this area is pretty much forgotten by mass market tourism, and even the more adventurous backpackers will struggle to find hostels and cheap hotels with the amenities they like.

The good news is that most of the developed cities in the Middle East and Africa are relatively cheap, excluding Tel Aviv, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Many budget travelers are shocked to find the prices in sub-Saharan Africa are quite high, at least for international-standard hotels and such. A good and recent guidebook can be a big help in this area, even while they become less necessary elsewhere.

Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to dig up information on more cities and countries in the region. For now we’ll start with the most popular ones, which should be helpful for at least getting an idea of typical daily costs for the places we are most likely to launch our journeys in. If you have updates or corrections to any of this, please let us know in the comments.

Several more cities will be added in early 2015

We’ve added 6 or 7 new cities in this region to Price of Travel recently, and we will add them to this backpacker index article in February, 2015. So if you want to see where cities in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania stack up, please check back.

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 2015

1 – Cairo, 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: The Australian Hostel – 36.45/night
  • Transportation: 2.00
  • Meals: 26.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 80.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: EGP189.85 – US$25.45/day

>>>Cairo prices and weather

2 – Marrakech, Morocco

The differences between Fez and Marrakech are minor, 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, so it’s the more affordable of them currently. 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 – 73.70/night
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 126.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 30.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MAD278.70 – US$29.15/day

>>>Marrakech prices and weather

3 – Dakar, 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 6,236/night
  • Transportation: 300
  • Meals: 8,400
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 2,400
  • Attractions: 2,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: XOF19,336 – US$33.47/day

>>>Dakar prices and weather

4 – Beirut, 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.

  • Currency: Lebanese pound
  • Cheap/good hostel: Al Nazih Pension 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

5 – Fes, Morocco

As mentioned above, prices in Marrakech and Fes/Fez are similar except that Fez doesn’t have the super-cheap 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 – 130/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 126.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 30.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MAD337 US$35.25/day

>>>Fez prices and weather

6 – Amman, 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 5.63/night
  • Transportation: 0.70
  • Meals: 8.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 9.00
  • Attractions: 2.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: JOD25.73 – US$36.24/day

>>>Amman prices and weather

7 – Cape 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.

  • Currency: South African rand
  • Cheap/good hostel: Green Elephant Backpackers – 91.90/night
  • Transportation: 15.80
  • Meals: 204.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 45.00
  • Attractions: 120.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: ZAR476.70 – US$41.38/day

>>>Cape Town prices and weather

8 – Tel 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 68.24/night
  • Transportation: 13.80
  • Meals: 69.60
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 66.00
  • Attractions: 48.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: ILS265.64 – US$67.59/day

>>>Tel Aviv prices and weather

9 – Dubai, 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: Dubai Youth Hostel 120/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 62.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75.00
  • Attractions: 20.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: AED283.40 – US$77.22/day

>>>Dubai prices and weather

10 – Abu 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: 20.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: AED307.40 – US$83.76/day

>>>Abu Dhabi prices and weather

Also check out Backpacker Indexes from the rest of the world

3 Responses to “10 Africa and Middle East cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2015”

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


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