13 Africa and Middle East cities by price: Backpacker Index for 2022

In our first update of this region since the start of the pandemic, we are pleased to see that the (limited number) of cities we cover have generally remained firmly in the bargain category. Just like most other places, there has been some recent inflation, but currencies have no collapsed and prices are almost all similar to what they were in early 2020 on our last update.

We only have information for a handful of cities in Africa and the Middle East, which is mostly due to the fact that there is very little in the way of backpacking infrastructure in most of this enormous region. If you have information to help us expand, please get in touch. It’s also worth noting that there are more wars and conflicts going on in Africa in 2022 than there has been for quite a few years, so the list of places you should firmly avoid continues to grow, unfortunately.

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 2022

1 Zanzibar City, Tanzania (Cheapest)

If 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. Some new and inexpensive hostels have been opening up in recent years and that has helped Zanzibar City become the cheapest of the destinations we cover.

  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Best cheap hostel: Lost & Found – 14,000/night
  • Transportation: 800
  • Meals: 18,240
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 12,000
  • Attractions: 8,500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TZS58,940 – US$22.98/day

>>Zanzibar City prices and weather


2 Arusha, Tanzania

As 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
  • Best cheap hostel: The Greenhouse – 26,300/night
  • Transportation: 800
  • Meals: 22,560
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 13,500
  • Attractions: 10,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: TZS73,160 – US$31.40/day

>>Arusha prices and weather


3 Fes, Morocco

Prices in Marrakech and Fes/Fez are similar. 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. In 2022 Fez has lower hostel prices by a little bit, so it is higher on this list, but do note that this group of cities are tightly bunched together on the Backpacker Index.

  • Currency: Moroccan dirham
  • Best cheap hostel: Funky Fes – 65/night
  • Transportation: 8.00
  • Meals: 154.80
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75.00
  • Attractions: 30.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MAD332.80 US$33.11/day

>>Fez prices and weather


4Dakar, 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Dakar International House 6,141/night
  • Transportation: 300
  • Meals: 9,960
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 3,000
  • Attractions: 2,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: XOF21,401 – US$34.02/day

>>Dakar prices and weather


5Beirut, 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. As of 2022 I think no sane person would want to visit Lebanon with all of the problems going on within the country. Also, the international measures of annual food inflation are showing Lebanon with something like 2,400% in 2020 and 2021, which makes it almost impossible to guess food prices at any given time in the future. You probably won’t be visiting Beirut anyway, but if you did you would probably find food prices to be higher than this, although they still have to be generally affordable for locals as well.

  • Currency: Lebanese pound
  • Best cheap hostel: The Colony Hostel Beirut 22,616/night
  • Transportation: 2,000
  • Meals: 12,840
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 9,600
  • Attractions: 5,000
  • Daily Backpacker Index: LBP52,056 – US$34.32/day

>>Beirut prices and weather


6Marrakech, 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 and hostels to choose from, but hostel prices tend to be a bit higher here anyway. 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Kasbah Red Castle Hostel – 42.58/night
  • Transportation: 8.00
  • Meals: 154.80
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 75.00
  • Attractions: 70.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: MAD350.38 – US$34.86/day

>>Marrakech prices and weather


7Cape 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. In 2022 Cape Town should remain a fantastic travel bargain for most visitors.

  • Currency: South African rand
  • Best cheap hostel: Zebra Crossing – 186/night
  • Transportation: 12.00
  • Meals: 248.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 66.00
  • Attractions: 120.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: ZAR632.40 – US$39.53/day

>>Cape Town prices and weather


8Cairo, Egypt

Egypt in general and Cairo more specifically are among the absolute must-visit places for those who consider themselves to be serious travelers, so it’s a shame that the country and city have become somewhat unstable again in recent years. Still, as one of the world’s truly must-see destinations, it’s fortunate that Cairo is also quite 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 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. It’s worth noting the hostels and meals here are very inexpensive, but the famous things you’ll visit such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, are justifiably expensive, and that is why Cairo is this far down the list. Be on the lookout for local “guides” because many are unscrupulous and dishonest, and they are almost impossible to avoid.

  • Currency: Egyptian pound
  • Best cheap hostel: Dahab Hostel – 118.60/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 312.00
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 210.00
  • Attractions: 120.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: EGP766.60 – US$40.91/day

>>Cairo prices and weather


9Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi 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. Please note that Nairobi is closer in price to the cheapest city on this list than it is to the most expensive three cities on the bottom of this list. In other words, it’s pretty affordable for most people. The main reason why Nairobi is this far down the list is that the cheaper hostels are terrible and the best hostels are pretty expensive.

  • Currency: Kenyan Shilling
  • Best cheap hostel: Wildebeest Eco Camp – 2,970/night
  • Transportation: 100
  • Meals: 1,644
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 600
  • Attractions: 500
  • Daily Backpacker Index: KES5,814 – US$49.57/day

>>Nairobi prices and weather


10Amman, 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Sydney Hostel 8.00/night
  • Transportation: 0.70
  • Meals: 9.60
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 15.00
  • Attractions: 2.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: JOD35.30 – US$49.72/day

>>Amman prices and weather


11 Abu Dhabi, UAE

As 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, 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
  • Best cheap hotel: City Seasons Al Hamra Hotel 89.24/night sharing a double
  • Transportation: 4.00
  • Meals: 86.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 90.00
  • Attractions: 40.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: AED309.64 – US$84.37/day

>>Abu Dhabi prices and weather


12 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. Hostels here used to be rare and quite expensive, but that is changing and now in 2022 you have some pretty good choices at appealing nightly rates. If you are planning the main attractions you should check our Go Dubai Card review for ways to save money.

  • Currency: UAE dirham
  • Best cheap hostel: Dubai Beach Host 130/night
  • Transportation: 6.00
  • Meals: 74.40
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 90.00
  • Attractions: 40.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: AED340.40 – US$92.75/day

>>Dubai prices and weather


13 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
  • Best cheap hostel: Roger’s House Tel Aviv 89.28/night
  • Transportation: 13.80
  • Meals: 100.80
  • Drinks/Entertainment: 90.00
  • Attractions: 50.00
  • Daily Backpacker Index: ILS343.88 – US$99.68/day

>>Tel Aviv prices and weather

Also check out Backpacker Indexes from the rest of the world

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All Comments

  1. Dmitri Markine says:

    Afghanistan is very cheap. hotels @ less than $20/night. Meals less than $6 for a big feast. The issue is, you can’t really travel on your own there. You will need some kind of escort/tour (hopefully armed). One of the most amazing countries I’ve been to.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Dmitri,

      It’s great to hear that a place where an armed escort is highly recommended is at least cheap. It would be easy to assume that most dangerous places in Africa and the Middle East were very cheap, but many of them are not. For the time being this list is going to stick with places where armed escorts are less critical for average tourists. Thanks for the information. -Roger

  2. Agness of a TukTuk says:

    Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a little expensive for budget travelers. Couchsurfing is an option, though there are risks, but if goes well it’ll really help the budget big time.

  3. David says:

    So if I don’t drink, I could visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi for $60/day? Does that sound right?

    1. Roger Wade says:

      David,

      You could do Dubai for around US$60 per day if you don’t drink alcohol, but Abu Dhabi is more expensive because there are literally no hostels or cheap hotels. But even in Abu Dhabi, once you have your room paid for, food and many good attractions can be very affordable. -Roger

  4. Afrot says:

    Why is the biggest and richest Africa, Nigeria, is not on your list? There are so many wonderful cities and tourist centers in Nigerian states that you can’t afford to visit, when talking about African countries. Please, include this great nation, Nigeria,in your list.
    Thanks.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Afrot,

      The main reason I haven’t included any Nigerian cities yet is that I don’t have information on any of them. I’ve been producing this list for over 5 years now, and yours is the first mention of Nigeria. I’d love to include at least one city, and hopefully I can find someone to help me with accurate information. But it’s also true that Nigeria gets very few tourists from a global standpoint. Just because a country has a large population doesn’t mean tourists are flocking there. What would be the one city to include if you had to choose one? And can you help me provide the information? -Roger

  5. EKT says:

    The transportation figure for Dakar is wayyyy too low. The only this you could do with 300 CFA is take a single bus ride (not even round trip). Unfortunately, a lot of Francophone West Africa is not that cheap for travel. You also need to factor in the cost of drinking water.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      EKT,

      Thank you. The price we list is for 2 one-way bus trips in town, and it’s very hard to research this online. I’ve yet to make it to Dakar so I’m relying on others who have and have quoted me prices. I’ll adjust the transport price now. And I agree that you have to factor in the price of water. In most of the world without clean tap water, I find that bottled water can be found for no more than US$1 or US$2 a day. Is it more expensive in Dakar?

  6. Marcus says:

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

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Markus,

      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

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  7. 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?

    Thanks!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Sbadwy,

      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

  8. 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..

  9. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Mia,

      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

      1. Kish says:

        Dear Roger ,

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

      2. Julian Edgar says:

        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

        1. Roger Wade says:

          Julian,

          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