Traveling around the United States, Canada, and most of Europe can be extremely expensive, and one strategy that more and more people are considering is visiting countries where their money goes further. You can actually afford far more luxury for a lower price in many countries, usually saving far more than what might be a more expensive flight to get there.
Many people wonder where they can go where the US dollar is ‘strong.’ In a way these people aren’t so much looking for places where the US currency has climbed so high that things have become cheap, but more a list of countries where the local prices of real estate and labor are so low that prices of hotel rooms and food are always cheap as a result.
Below you’ll find a long list of countries where prices of hotels, transportation, food, and attractions are much lower than in the United States, Canada, or most of Europe.
Each city lists typical prices for the cheaper 3-star hotels there, but true budget travelers can often spend half these amounts by staying in 1- and 2-star hotels nearby.
Prices of things in Cancun and other beach resorts are no longer much lower than in the United States, so a beach holiday isn’t terribly cheap, but a cultural holiday definitely can be.
Mexico City – This city has long been drastically underrated and it has a far nicer climate than most people expect. A 3-star hotel can be found starting under US$40, a sit-down dinner starting under US$5, and a ride on the city’s metro for 24 cents.
The whole country is quite cheap for most Americans, even the two major attractions, the Tikal ruins in the north, and the lovely colonial city of Antigua in the south. It’s probably best to minimize your time in the capital of Guatemala City, however.
Antigua – A 3-star hotel for under US$40 per night is possible here as well, with filing local meals under US$5.
Emerging in popularity partly because Costa Rica is getting expensive, Panama is similarly modern and fairly easy to deal with. And unlike Costa Rica, Panama has a very worthwhile capital city.
Panama City – Many people only think about beaches when considering Central America, and there are nice and affordable beach resorts in Panama, but the capital is also popular with great food and nightlife. Again, 3-star hotels can be under US$40, and good meals under US$5.
Suddenly on everyone’s list, this country now gets raves for being friendly instead of warnings for being dangerous.
Cartagena – The most common tourist beach area is probably the most expensive part of the country, and still 3-star hotels for under US$60 and meals under US$4 are possible.
As is so often the case, the most popular tourist cities are the most expensive, but even in those your travel money will go a long way.
Lima – While it’s rarely a place that is the centerpiece of a vacation, Lima is a great stop for those on their way to Machu Picchu or other parts of South America. A 3-star hotel for under US$50 is possible, with meals around US$4 each not hard to find.
Cusco – This is the staging ground for every Machu Picchu trip, but it’s also a wonderful colonial town of its own. A 3-star hotel for US$35 is possible, and dinners under US$4 possible as well.
Half the country’s population lives in the Buenos Aires area, but tourists often head to the scenic and wide-open Patagonia in the south, or the Mendoza wine country to the west.
Buenos Aires – This wonderful city continues to be a great travel bargain in spite of hotel prices creeping up a bit lately. A 3-star hotel for under US$40 is possible, but US$50 is more likely, and some of the world’s finest steaks start around US$5 for the whole meal.
Also cheap and worth considering in South America
These days Turkey is becoming known for its many cheap beach resorts that are jammed with Europeans each summer, but the enormous Istsanbul is still one of the world’s great cities.
Istanbul – Everywhere else in the country will likely be cheaper than the largest city, but even here you can find nice 3-star hotels for under US$60 per night, and meals under US$6.
Many people arrive in Morocco on a fast and cheap ferry ride from southern Spain, to find that prices for most things are around half what they just left.
Fez – Lower qualiy hotels can be found around half this price, but even decent 3-star hotels here start under US$50 per night, and meals for under US$5 each as well.
Marrakech – Even easier to visit than Fez, prices in Marrakech are similar to that one, so 3-star hotels under US$50 and meals under US$5 are usually possible.
There are beach resorts here that are becoming popular with budget European travelers, but for most people the draws are Cairo and the Nile Valley.
Cairo – As crowded and chaotic as it is fascinating, Cairo is very cheap for most people as well. A 3-star hotel for under US$25 is possible, and meals under US$3 at local restaurants are easy to find.
Whether the country is keeping its currency artificially low or not, China is a great bargain once you get there.
Beijing – Most people start here to see the Forbidden City and a section or two of the Great Wall. A 3-star hotel for under US$30 is possible, and sit-down meals with locals for under US$3 are common.
Shanghai – Known more for its modern city center and building boom, Shanghai is more expensive than Beijing, with 3-star hotels starting around US$50 and meals around US$4, but it’s still worth a stop if you can manage it.
This country has some of the cheapest hotels and restaurants on earth, but unfortunately the big cities are comparatively expensive, which is another reason to avoid lingering in those.
Mumbai – If you can get by with a 1- or 2-star hotel you can pay half or less, but 3-star hotels here start around US$70 per night. Meals from street carts are incredibly cheap, though sit-down meals start around US$4 and up.
Delhi – There are cheaper options in this city, though it’s still probably best to only stay a few days at most. A 3-star hotel for under US$30 is possible, and restaurant meals under US$4 as well.
Goa – You’ll pay more to be on or near one of the many beaches in this southern area, but 3-star hotels a bit inland start under US$20 per night, and meals even at beach restaurants under US$3 are possible.
This country has long been a mecca for budget travelers since it’s exotic and easy to get around at the same time. Many smaller islands in the south are excellent bargains for those looking just to relax.
Bangkok – You’ve got to spend time in Bangkok at least once in your life. Fortunately 3-star hotels for under US$25 are possible, and meals for under US$3 as well.
Chiang Mai – The second largest city in Thailand is very different from Bangkok, and also cheaper. A 3-star hotel for around US$20 is possible, and 1-star rooms start around US$5 per night. A restaurant meal for under US$3 is easy to find, and great options for only a bit more.
Phuket – This resort island in the south is actually the most expensive part of Thailand. Still, a 3-star hotel starts under US$50 and meals under US$5.
Usually visited along with Thailand, this country is cheaper for most things as well.
Phnom Penh – A worthwhile stop for a few days when in the area, 3-star hotels start under US$30, and even meals in tourist restaurants are often under US$5.
Siem Reap – A lovely small town built partly around visits to the amazing Angkor Wat temple complex just to its north, Siem Reap has similar prices to Phnom Penh, with 3-star hotels starting under US$30 and meals well under US$5, as well as the cheapest hostel in the world at US$1 per night.
Yet another country that is rarely visited on its own, Laos is a popular stop between Thailand and Vietnam.
Vientiane – The mellow capital city offers welcome peace compared to most of the rest of the region, with 3-star hotels starting under US$30 per night, and meals under US$4 even at the tourist places along the river.
Luang Prabang – Extremely charming and still a bargain in spite of rising prices recently, a 3-star hotel for under US$30 is possible, though most of the better ones are closer to double that price. Meals for under US$4 are also easy to find, even at touristy places.
Some people find Vietnam to be a bit less friendly for tourists than its neighbors, but those who try will find excellent bargains and good quality.
Hanoi – The capital still has many French influences, and excellent cuisine, but it’s often used mostly to stage a trip to nearby Halong Bay. A 3-star hotel room for under US$25 is possible, and meals under US$3 are common.
Hoi An – This touristy town just off the beach near Danang is many peoples’ favorite stop in Vietnam, and it’s another great bargain. A 3-star hotel for a bit over US$20 is possible, and fabulous meals for US$3 are common, washed down with the cheapest beer in the world.
Ho Chi Minh City – Sprawling and confusing at first, this city has a lot to offer if you look around a bit. A 3-star hotel starts around US$30, and meals under US$4 are common.
A cheap country that is even easier to visit than its neighbors since English is so common, Malaysia deserves far more tourists than it receives.
Kuala Lumpur – Very modern and still exotic, Kuala Lumpur is known for the Petronas Towers and excellent food, with 3-star hotels starting under US$35 and meals under US$4.
This huge and populace group of islands is filled with bargains, though nearly everyone concentrates on just one small island in the chain.
Bali – Beautiful and very friendly, Bali is also very cheap as long as you avoid the resort strip in Nusa Dua. A 3-star hotel for under US$40 is possible, with simple rooms being under half that amount. A sit-down meal in a tourist restaurant will often be under US$4 as well.