Why not take some time to dream up your next getaway so that you’ll be ready as soon as the time is right to travel again? From steamy salsa lessons in South America to delicious baked goodies in the Balkans, here’s a list of the top cheap travel destinations to keep you inspired.
As difficult as things might be right now, we often catch ourselves dreaming of the day we’ll be able to head out there and explore somewhere new. Here are 12 beautiful budget-friendly countries and vacation spots that offer plenty of opportunities for authentic experiences and sustainable tourism.
With the tourism industry taking a massive hit this year, cheap travel destinations like Cambodia are places you should think about travelling to when the time is right to get out there again and take an international vacation. Not only is Cambodia rich in culture and history, but the country has also recently been paving the way with sustainable and local tourism. You can go on local tours, stay in small hostels or boutique hotels, and eat at restaurants run by NGOs where your tourist dollar can go a long way.
Major destinations in Cambodia like Siem Reap are filled with boutique hotel experiences that will feel like luxury without breaking the bank. Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant is a fantastic initiative where your travel dollar goes right back to the local community. The hotel doubles as a vocational training school, where the staff receive free tuition and training to work in the hospitality industry. The program is for students from underserved communities, which empowers them for a bright future and lots of opportunities. If you’re thinking of extending your stay (and it will be pretty hard not to!) there are plenty of animal sanctuaries that take volunteers.
Don’t leave Cambodia without visiting this iconic ancient site. Wake up early to witness a spectacular sunrise behind the main Angkor Wat temple. Plan to spend more than one day wandering around as you’ll want to soak it all in.
With its rise in popularity as a cheap travel destination over the past few years, Vietnam remains one of the best vacation spots for budget travellers and beyond. Everything from accommodation, food, and transportation is very affordable in Vietnam compared to life in Canada. You can have a steaming hot bowl of pho for less than 50,000 VND (about $3 CAD). Make sure to wash it down with a glass of Bia Hoi, Vietnam’s infamous light and fresh beer for 10,000 VVD (60 cents!).
Hanoi, the former headquarters of French Indochina and the administrative centre of communist North Vietnam, was declared the country’s official capital in 1976 after reunification began. Hanoi retains much of its French flavour. You’ll be able to find delicious croissants next to a pho noodle soup shack.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter around Hoan Kiem Lake is the best place to soak up some of the city’s post-colonial charm. It is a rare oasis of calm in the otherwise chaotic city, and locals head there every morning at sunrise to practice Tai Chi.
You can experience Vietnamese rural life in the former French mountain resort of Da Lat, in the central highlands. The city is somewhat overrun with tourists as it is the main departure point for a lot of “Easy Rider” motorcycle tours. However, the flower farms, local tofu factories, cashew nut plantations, and some beautiful rice terraces, are worth a visit. Due to the region’s elevation, most of the country’s coffee exports come from Da Lat. Afterward, you can head along the coast southwards to Ho Chi Minh City.
India is the seventh-largest country in the world, so unless you’re planning a long-term trip, it pays to plan which of the country’s 29 states you want to visit in this cheap destination.
You can head west to Rajasthan to immerse all of your senses in the Pink City, Jaipur. Or you can kick back on the white sands of Kerala in southern India, or study yoga in Goa. Staying north, you can visit the world’s most famous tomb, the Taj Mahal, in the city of Agra. You can visit New Delhi for some of India’s best street food, particularly in the narrow streets and bustling boulevards around Connaught Place in the centre of town.
Wherever you choose to explore, India remains a wonderful place for a budget vacation and one of our top picks for cheap travel destinations.
Bolivia is one of only two landlocked countries in South America (the other is Paraguay). This South American nation is also another cheap travel destination that can easily be done on a budget. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much there is to see and do in Bolivia!
In Bolivia’s administrative capital, La Paz, wander along Calle Jaén for a slice of South American life under Spanish colonial control — the street is home to some of the city’s best-preserved colonial buildings, whitewashed façades, and ornate black grilled balconettes. It is also where you’ll find a cluster of museums, including the former home of Pedro Domingo Murillo, who lead forces during the La Paz Revolution of 1809. Pick up your bumper bargain ticket from the Museo Costumbrista, which houses a ceramic depicting the hanging of the aforementioned revolutionary.
As if that weren’t enough, Bolivia boasts some of the best value food and drink in all of South America. For example, a bottle of Paceña beer generally costs $3 (15 Bolivianos) and a bowl of chairo (potato soup) about the same. Make sure to pack plenty of layers for when the sun goes down. Although Bolivia generally endures hot and humid tropical summers, La Paz is surrounded by the altiplano mountains so it stays cool year-round.
Looking to turn up the heat? Head to Oruro, a city in the heart of the altiplano famous for its Carnival, held each year in February or March to honour the Virgin of Candelaria. A 3-hour bus ride from La Paz will bring you to this UNESCO protected presentation of Indigenous and religious Bolivian culture, with more than 48 folk dance performances and a traditional parade.
Georgia, the beautiful country in the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia is another cheap travel destination eager to be explored. Once you arrive in Tbilisi, Georgia’s largest city, you can snag a small single room for less than $20/night and feast on some of the world’s greatest food. Have a filling breakfast of khachapuri (large bread pastry with egg and cheese) for 2 Georgian laris, less than $1. You can easily spend less than $10 for a sit-down meal including some local Georgian wine in a little cafe along the cobblestone roads of Old Tbilisi.
The way to get around Georgia is by marshrutka, the local minibus system from their soviet era. Just a three-hour drive to the mountain resort destination of Kazbegi costs less than $10. Spend at least a few days in Kazbegi where you can splurge on a boutique hotel or stay at a local guesthouse or homestay, where you’ll be blessed with incomparable views of the Caucasus Mountains and hiking opportunities for any type of adventurer.
For a budget beach getaway, head west to Batumi. Locals love Batumi’s seaside location and cool vibes, and you can easily find a double room by the water for less than $50. Don’t worry solo travellers, hostels have space for about $10.
Honduras does not make it onto many most-visited lists, but it has white sand beaches reminiscent of the Maldives, scuba diving to rival the Red Sea, and mega cheap food and drink making Honduras a great cheap travel destination, much like other destinations in Central America.
Check out the swathes of pristine beaches along Honduras’s northern coast. One of the busiest centres along this idyllic stretch is Puerto Cortes, a bustling port famous for its trade in bananas with strong Spanish heritage, signs of which survive to this day.
Head out to Omoa, a picture-postcard seaside town with a colonial fortress to explore. If you’re really serious about sniffing out the prettiest post-colonial towns, look no further than the quaint Spanish houses, decadent Cathedrals, and packed plazas in Comayagua’s historic town centre.
A two-hour drive northwest from Honduras’s capital brings you to Tegucigalpa. This city was once the country’s religious and political centre, but nowadays its main draws are the colonial buildings and cute plaza cafés. Bag a traditional Honduran baguette or bistek (steak) sandwich from café La Casa de Sandwich and picnic in the nearby Parque Central.
Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts have undergone a bit of a boom with visitors in recent years. Despite becoming a burgeoning budget travel destination in Europe, many places outside of Sofia remain relatively untouched by bargain-hungry vacationers and the further east you go, the cheaper it gets!
Head for Nessebar, a UNESCO World Heritage site a few hours south of Varna and a great spot to start your budget tour of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Although much of Nessebar’s ancient city of Messembria has collapsed into the ocean, there are still plenty of old churches to admire and cobbled lanes to stroll along.
Just a 20-minute subway ride from the airport terminal (30-40 minutes if you’re travelling by bus) you can satisfy your inner culture vulture in Sofia. The second oldest city in Europe is stuffed with museums and galleries, including the Museum of Socialist Art and the National Literature Museum.
Soak up some summer sun and do a few laps down at Liulin Beach, with its three outdoor swimming pools, a sand area, and a footie field – there’s even a canteen to grab a slice of pizza post-exercise.
Sri Lanka is the picture-perfect paradise where you can feast on curry, trek in through the jungle and stay in hotels on the beach for under $50 a day. When it comes to budget travel with beach views, you can’t get much better than Sri Lanka.
The temples, monasteries, and stupa speckled throughout the surrounding countryside offer a window into Sri Lanka’s Buddhist culture. Highlights include the Sri Maha Bodhiya (Bodhi Tree Temple) in Anuradhapura and the Sri Dhalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy, which is arguably the most sacred places on the entire island. Be warned, foreigners tend to pay higher entrance fees, although some tuk-tuk drivers might offer to sneak you in for free!
While you’re in town, be sure to check out the unparalleled Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy, located by Sri Lanka’s longest river.
One recommended luxury stay is at the five-star Cinnamon Lodge, located in Habarana, the epicentre of a cultural triangle encompassing Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy. The swish suites here (deals for less than $200 CAD) boast fantastic views over the tropical Habarana Lake – take it all in from your own private hot tub, while being served champagne by your on-call butler.
From the jungles of the central plains in La Pampa to the rugged Andes mountains on the western border with Chile, there’s plenty to see and do in Argentina, the world’s eighth-largest country. It’s also a relatively cheap travel destination, where your hard-earned dollars can be spent well on some of the world’s best wine, steak, and sightseeing along the way.
City lights don’t get much brighter than in Buenos Aires, which has rightly earned its reputation as one of the most exciting cities on the planet, thanks partly to its totally up-for-it nightlife. Argentina is also known for being a popular solo travel destination.
Tour the bright and bold murals that adorn many of Buenos Aires’s buildings, and come sundown slink along the streets of San Telmo and enjoy the cool bohemian vibe in the restaurants and bars in this part of town – much more fun (and kinder on the wallet) than a night out in the tourist traps of the city’s Recoleta district. Experience the colourful, flamboyant life of the Argentinian capital by staying away from its most exclusive hotspots and you can easily get by on a small budget. An average meal in Argentina typically sets you back 350 Argentinian pesos ($7 CAD) and you can snag a double room for less than $50 CAD/night.
If you want to get away from it all and see some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, then take a trip to Patagonia in southern Argentina, home to Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly city in the world and a popular departure point for excursions to the Antarctic. Get there by bus from Buenos Aires – a journey which takes anywhere from 24 to 36 hours or hop on a quick flight.
And last but not least, prepare yourself for plenty of penguins, dolphins, and whales in the UNESCO protected nature reserve, Península Valdés.
While it’s still pretty pricey to stay on famous Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos, you can pick a quieter Greek getaway like Paros or Skiathos where you can spend the days in 28-degree heat, sipping ice-cold Mythos for half the price.
Don’t have time for a full-on island-hop? Settle for a day trip to the Sardonic Gulf island of Hydra, just one and a half hours by catamaran from Athens and the spot for some of the best souvlaki (kebabs) you’ll find anywhere else in the Aegean Sea. Pirofani restaurant has been dishing up this delicious food for over 20 years!
Sail across to Kefalonia (which you might recognize from the big screen adaption of the famous book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) for a slab of traditional pie, filled with oozing meats and gravy, wrapped in a blanket of filo pastry. Ferries run regularly between the islands, but if departing from Athens, head to the port of Piraeus to check the boards for updated prices and schedules. Most of the Aegean Islands take about four or five hours to reach by high-speed ferry, six to eight on a regular one.
And once you’re done island-hopping, make sure to spend a few days at Greece’s most ancient sites.
If you want to travel to the Dominican Republic on a budget, it is possible to spend under $60 a day on accommodation, travel, and food. If you eat where the locals eat, you can find cheap dishes and drinks, while heading into town on local buses that cost less than $1, about 30 Dominican pesos.
Check in to the Bavaro Hostel and you’ll get a bed within a three-minute walk of the white sands and swaying palms of Bavaro beach.
If you want all-day dining and activities, the Dominican Republic offers some incredible deals for all-inclusive holidays. The VH Gran Ventana on the appropriately named Playa Dorada (Golden Beach) has four different restaurants, from gourmet Caribbean food to casual beachfront grill. It also has three swimming pools and includes water sports like water skiing, parasailing, banana boats, and scuba diving.
Flight prices to Ireland have tumbled over the past few years, meaning you can get to Dublin for less than you might think, making it one of our 12 cheap travel destinations.
Free things to do in the Irish capital include visiting the Chester Beatty Library, to check out its world-famous and dazzlingly expansive collection of rare books and manuscripts. You can also take a walk with the deer herd in Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed recreational space in any European capital.
Do some budget shopping at the weekend Blackrock Market, Dublin’s oldest, and sup on the central city’s (rumoured) cheapest pint, at the Pavilion Bar at the cricket pitch in Trinity College.
If you’d rather get out into rural Ireland, head to Galway, where prices are lower than the capital across the board. You could spend some of those savings on the city’s vibrant nightlife (thanks student population) with a trawl through the city’s pubs – where Guinness is around 15% cheaper than in Dublin – and the live music sessions at the traditional music pub An Pucan are free.