World’s cheapest beer, liquor, city, country, and hostel (are all in Asia) plus more shocking cheapies
When your entire site is all about documenting travel costs for every major destination around the world, as Price of Travel is, it’s not surprising that you’ll come up with a lot of “World’s cheapest” this and that. Especially since much of this research was done while traveling all over the cheapest parts of Asia, it was easy to find some truly shocking bargains.
So for those who like their cheapskate opportunies all in one place, we’ll list the most interesting ones just below. In each case we have a full article with all the specifics, plus you’ll find much of the research data on all of our “city pages” that now cover over 110 cities around the world.
This might be Homer Simpson’s dream if not for the fact that in most episodes he somehow always seems to have plenty of money. In Vietnam they call it ‘bia hoi’ which (sort of) translates to ‘fresh beer’ (at least on all the signs there), and thanks to currency flucuations it’s now available at many places for under US$0.15 per glass. Yes, you’ll have to go to Vietnam to find the world’s cheapest beer, so it’s fortunate that the country has plenty of other charms (and low prices) to make the trip worthwhile.
The capital city of Hanoi in the north is where most people recommend you find this stuff, which tastes pretty much like American light beer, unless it’s watered down a bit to stretch the batch out. However, prices are similar at many really nice restaurants in Hue and Hoi An in the middle of the country, and the seats and service are far better as well.
If you are hoping to drink yourself to death, Leaving Las Vegas-style, and you are on a tight budget then forget the bia hoi in Vietnam and cross the border into Laos for the world’s cheapest liquor. Rice whisky is popular and easy to find all over Southeast Asia, and it’s quite cheap through the region as well, but specifically in the Laos’ capital city of Vientiane you can find commercially produced bottles of the stuff for as low as US$0.75 for a full .70-liter bottle. It’s 45% alcohol as well, so you’ll be wasted long before you’re thirst is gone.
In the country of Laos they usually actually call it ‘laolao’ but it’s pretty much identical to the rice whisky elsewhere. You’d be wrong to assume that the taste resembles turpentine, as it actually goes down pretty easy and mixes very well with many of the very affordable fruit juices available in the region. Bootleg versions, produced at farms or homes, are sometimes sold from restaurants for crazy-low prices, or out of plastic bags from locals for even less.
World’s cheapest city
If you’ve seen our Asia Backpackers Index you’d already know that Hanoi actually comes up as the cheapest major tourist city in the world. Based on our fixed set of daily expenses, including a hostel bed, 3 meals, 3 beers, a museum visit, and 2 public transportation rides, the lovely Hanoi requires only around US$12 per day for all of it.
Yep, a hostel bed starts at around US$5, meals start at under US$1 each, museums and transportation are practically free, and you’ve seen how cheap beer is mentioned above. But before you pull only $100 out of the ATM and head to the airport, it’s worth noting that most people tend to “normalize” their expenses, meaning that when things are really cheap they tend to splurge a bit instead of surviving on the bare minimum. Still, they don’t come cheaper than Hanoi, Vietnam.
With what’s been mentioned above you might assume that Vietnam is the cheapest country in the world, and it might in fact be number two on that list, but India is the world’s cheapest country when you average things out. The only confusion might come if you only visited Mumbai and Delhi, as they are relatively expensive in addition to being insanely crowded. The trick is to go just about anywhere else in India, especially to the smaller, charming towns, and you can get by on almost nothing. Even in the Lonely Planet guidebook, which only includes places that meet a certain standard, you can find private hotel rooms starting around US$2 per night in most every corner of the country.
It’s actually getting a bit more expensive lately, but the state of Goa in India might be one of the finest travel bargains on earth. It’s a gorgeous and peaceful beach resort area, completely devoid of the frustrating crowds the country is known for, with hotel rooms starting around US$5 per night, and tax-free alcohol that means a .65-liter bottle of beer is under US$2 each, even when served at a beach restaurant.
A huge percentage of backpackers and long-term travelers choose to sleep in dorm beds in hostels, primarily because of the low cost, but also because it’s easier to meet other travelers and you often have fun public areas to hang out in or make your own meals. In a city like London or Paris even these rickety IKEA bunk dorm beds will cost US$30 or more at most places, but in the gorgeous Siem Reap, Cambodia, which is at the edge of the stunning Angkor Wat Temple complex, a dorm bed can be found for exactly US$1 per night at the world’s cheapest hostel.
These beds at the Garden Village Guesthouse are actually semi-outdoors, which is actually a nice feature most of the year in an area where both days and nights are sweltering much of the year. As a bonus the place has US$0.50 glasses of Angkor Draft beer all day and all night, so you don’t have to stagger over to Pub Street to get the similar Happy Hour specials. Private rooms at the guesthouse start at $US6 per night if you are a bit more modest or anti-social.
This one may not quite fit this article like the others, since the answer probably shifts a bit from one season to the next. But still, when I recently researched what the cheapest possible itinerary that included at least 3, 4, or 5 cities and crossed the International Dateline exactly once, I was shocked at how cheap they were. In a time when a round-trip between New York and London is around US$1,000, it was incredible to discover that you can still fly the other way around the world, with a couple of stops in Shanghai and Moscow, for under US$1,400.
The cheapest round-the-world trip itineraries all seem to involve Moscow, strangely enough, and Russia is a notoriously complicated country to get a visa for, so don’t pack your bags just yet. Still, you can add in Reykjavik and London for only a bit more, so go nuts!
If you have never daydreamed about spending a holiday in one of those overwater bungalows (called water villas in some places) then you probably haven’t seen a photo of an overwater bungalow, or you are terrified of being near the water (chicken!). A new site finally covers every single one of the nearly 100 overwater-bungalow resorts in the world, with most of those actually being water villas in the Maldives.
Many of those things cost US$1,000 a night or even more, but a few of them are actually semi-affordable to the masses. It depends on exactly how you define the term, but assuming we are referring to only a detached single-unit dwelling on stilts above a body of water, then the cheapest overwater bungalows in the world are in the San Blas Islands off Panama, at US$240 per night and up. A new and massive hotel is now opening in Malaysia and they should be taking the crown away soon.
Now that we are done with the novelty stuff, it’s time for something that might be a bit more helpful to everyone. As mentioned near the top, our Backpackers Index lists over 100 cities around the world, and compares them by price using the same things in each, sorting out which places are the cheapest and which are most expensive.
Most of the world’s cheapest cities are in Asia, but there are quite a few from Latin America and elsewhere that are close. Check out our main list to see details on the Cheapest cities in Asia, which reveals that Hanoi, Vietnam is (as mentioned way above) the cheapest major tourist city on the continent and in the world.
Yep, we cover Europe like a blanket as well, listing 40 cities all over the continent. Obviously prices are higher than in Asia, including almost all of the most expensive cities on the planet.
To spoil the surprise a bit, Sofia, Bulgaria tops the list of the cheapest cities in Europe, and even though that one isn’t too high on many’s people’s lists yet, some really good ones are just below it, including Budapest and Prague.
This same list will also show that Scandinavia is a budget-killer for most people, but that area still doesn’t compete with Zurich, Switzerland, which is so off-the-charts expensive that I can barely bring myself to type the name for fear of a bill arriving.
The language barrier is only one of the things that keeps many people from flocking to South America, which is really a shame. It’s true that some knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese is fairly important in order to have a smooth trip without spending a fortune, but even those who only speak English can have a great time on a very reasonable budget.
The cheapest cities in South and Central America list topped by Quito, Ecuador, which also boasts probably the world’s most consistent and stable climate. Cartagena, Colombia is down at number three, and the beach areas there are a huge favorite with the budget crowd now that things in the country have mostly settled down.
This one obviously doesn’t fit the “cheapest” theme here, but since banh mi sandwiches are a huge food trend in Europe and North America right now I thought I’d point out this very famous place called Tiệm Bánh Mi Phương that was partially put on the pop-culture map when Anthony Bourdain visited and drooled over the sandwich with his former boss. I had the privilege of being the first to show the “sandwich artist” the “No Reservations” segment on my iPhone, which is discussed in the article as well.
So the best banh mi sandwich in the world is always going to be subjective, but this one might be the most famous banh mi sandwich in the world, even if some claim it’s not the best. And for the record, the cheapest banh mi is probably one of the smaller ones they sell at many places in Dalat, Vietnam, which are also very good, and now go for about US$0.24 each, as opposed to the US$0.74 that this Hoi An will set you back.