Think traveling is out of your reach? There are plenty of places across the globe where you can easily backpack for just a few dollars a day, from Africa to Asia, while still experiencing authentic cuisines and amazing cultures. For the same price of an Ikea couch, you could spend 2 weeks water-skiing in Malawi, or hiking some of the world’s highest mountains in Nepal. Get ready to accumulate awesome backpacking experiences rather than things, and explore every corner of the globe without having to spend a fortune.
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Yep, you read that correctly. Even though Thailand has evolved from it’s relatively unknown and off the beaten track destination into a country filled with all inclusive resorts (a backpacker’s true nightmare), there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy Thailand’s beauty and culture without the hordes or tourist- or overpriced drinks.
For the best way to enjoy Thailand on a budget, head to the northern regions and inland- basically anyplace away from a beach. There backpackers can still enjoy tropical oasis and breathtaking exotic sights while only spending a few dollars a day. If you’re willing to shack up with others, dorm rooms will only run you around $3 US dollars a night, and the truly affluent among us can enjoy a private bed and bath for a little over $5. The Thai food is just as cheap; authentic Pad Thai from right off the street might cost you $1 for a filling and unforgettable lunch.
While it still might cost you a bit to fly into Bangkok, wander around for a few hours and then take the train outta town; a ticket will only cost you $10-20, and you’ll be able to backpack around the rest of Thailand for only a few dollars a day ala backpacking style.
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Want beautiful Mediterranean views, architecture, and culture without the expensive price tag you’ll find in Italy or Greece? Albania is a wonderful alternative, with just as many beautiful beaches, cities, and museums at a fraction of the cost. While more expensive than other locations in the world, it’s a great place to explore Europe and the Mediterranean without spending as much as you would in other countries. You can easily get there from the main hubs in Europe, and once there room will only cost you around $20 per night, and a cheap meal at a restaurant will only cost you around $5.
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Costa Rica may be very English speaking friendly, but it’s increasing popularity as a tourist spot and retirement oasis have also caused prices to spike rather dramatically. Luckily, neighboring Nicaragua is the perfect alternative and offers plenty of Central American charm for backpackers without the hefty prices.
Even the most touristy towns only cost around $10 per night for a dorm room, and any number of the smaller towns more off the beaten track have plenty of hostels with even cheaper price tags. Typical South American fare will only cost you a few dollars each meal, making Nicaragua one of the best ways to explore Central America’s beauty while on a backpacker’s budget.
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The best backpacking tip I can give you is this: go where the US has currently placed travel warnings. While you may slightly be more at risk, if you use your head and travel wisely, you can easily enjoy cheap backpacking without a tourist in sight. Colombia was where I first learned this lesson, and it still remains a backpacker’s haven today. While the country is significantly safer than it was back in the 80s, most of America seems convinced Colombia is still run by drug cartels and ex mafia members.
Use this to your advantage and travel often; you can easily find a hostel room in the heart of Cartagena for under $10 a night; a hammock on the beach on an island in the Caribbean at Playa Blanca will only cost you $3 a night, and around $10 for a round trip boat ride out. The food is a bit more pricey, but if you’re willing to buy most of your meals from street vendors you can easily survive on just a few dollars for each meal.
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Ready for some serious backpacking? Nepal offers more than just living out of a backpack; the country’s has some of the world’s highest peaks and thousands of miles of backpacking trails and treks that are filled with mountain vistas and unending skies. Best of all, the trails are filled with lodges, temples, and houses that offer cheap accommodation, sights, and food, i.e. all the backpacking essentials of a great trip. Kathmandu, Nepal’s main city, boasts the second cheapest hostel in the world, where you can get a bed inside for a mere $2 per night.
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Africa has lots to offer the average backpacker on a budget! While the plane ticket to Africa might set you back, backpacking around Malawi is surprisingly cheap; you can easily survive off of less than $20 a day, thanks in part to the poor economy of the country, and the lack of tourist industry.
Getting around the country is much cheaper than getting there, and the budget prices mean you’re in for quite an adventure, from crowded buses to the beds of pick-up trucks or taxis. You can easily find a bed for $2+ around most of the country, and meals can cost you as little as $1 if you eat local fare. Entertainment is cheap as well in Malawi; for only a few dollars you can enjoy the same world class water skiing that would cost you a week’s salary in other touristy areas of the world.
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Cheap backpacking trips aren’t limited to just Southest Asia. For a taste of West meets East, head over to Turkey, where you can enjoy backpacking around the country for well under $40 a day. night in a dorm room hostel starts around $5 in Istanbul, while Turkish cuisine offers plenty of traditional and cheap dishes that help you feel full for only a few dollars each meal.
Eating off the streets is one of the best ways to keep costs cheap, and Turkey’s many markets are great places to find meals for under $5. Transportation costs aren’t going to break the bank either; flights to Istanbul are surprisingly inexpensive, and bus fares around the country are even cheaper, with a luxury bus ride across the country running only about $20 a person.
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Vietnam is incredibly backpacker friendly, and not just in prices. The country has plenty of sights, activities, and things to do that are either free or can be done for just a few dollars. A dorm style hostel room can be found for under $3 a night, and often include breakfast. Your other two meals of the day will cost you even less; Vietnam’s plenty of street vendors and cheap restaurants allow you to try some of the best ethnic dishes for under $2 a meal.
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South America isn’t as cheap as it once was, but there are still a few hidden spots where backpackers can enjoy exploring for only a few dollars a day. Bolivia is one of the best places, with plenty of South American charm and exotic destinations within reach of budget friendly accommodations. You can find rather primitive places to stay for around $5 a night, and meals filled with rice and beans will only cost you a few dollars per meal.
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10. New Zealand
Backpacking with a group? Then, New Zealand is your perfect destination for a backpacking trip. The best, and cheapest, and very popular way to see the country is to buy and sell a campervan; gas is cheap, and you can find tons of free or very inexpensive campgrounds that are set up for campervans on both islands.
If you don’t want to invest the money up front to buy you, you can easily rent one for around $100 a day, which with a group of people can average around $15-25 a person per night; not a bad price for a day’s accommodation and travel expenses. The best bet for cheap food on the go to is to buy locally grown fruit and vegetables, or to find the few good cheap roadside stands and stock up on grub. Either way, you can easily backpack New Zealand while sticking to a budget.
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The Scandinavian experience may be a bit out of reach of your budget, but you can still experience a hybrid of Scandinavian, Baltic, Russian, and European influence in Estonia. A hostel in Tallinn will cost you under $10 a night in the best of Old Town, and the city offers numerous restaurants that provide bigger and better meals for less than the cost of a fast food burger.
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Tanzania is an outdoor enthusiast's dream, and if you’re in the mood for some serious backpacking you can enjoy all that the country has to offer without breaking the bank. You can easily enjoy local cuisine right off the street and only spend around $1 per meal for some of the best food you’ve ever tasted. Depending on how luxurious you want your accommodations to be, you can find plenty of places to stay ranging from $4 up to $10. Best of all, a visa only costs around $50, so you’re not spending the majority of your budget before you even get in the country.
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Ethiopia can easily be backpacked for under $15 a day, without missing any of the beauty and wonder the country has to offer. Authentic and filling meals will only cost you around $1 in a local restaurant, and backpackers who forage from food vendors on the street can easily eat for around 50 cents a meal. You can cheaply travel from city to city via public buses, which will only cost about $1 per hour. Backpacker crowds immune to a little discomfort and up for a bit of roughing it can easily find beds for around $3 a night, leaving plenty of money to explore the rest of Ethiopia’s beauty and welcoming culture.
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Cambodia is a backpacker’s paradise, and the land backpacking trips are designed for. The extreme affordability is in part thanks to public transportation that is unreliable, ancient, and usually cramped. The beautiful trade off for all this character is an entire country where backpacker’s can survive for weeks at a time on the average allowance of a 8 year old.
Remember the beauty of Angor Wat? You can easily find a bed in Siem Reap, The city closest to Angor Wat for around $3; if you’re willing to fork over around $10, you can have a private room all to yourself. If you’re really on a ithgt budget, no problem; Cambodia is home to the world’s cheapest hostel, where only $1 is enough to get you a place to sleep for the night. Food will only cost you a few dollars for huge hearty meals of epic proportions, and the streets are filled with vendors offering some of the freshest meals for a few cents.
If you want beautiful beaches, exotic locations, and all for only a few dollars a day, Cambodia is the perfect place to explore by backpacking.
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Georgia is quite possibly the most undiscovered Eastern European country, and that’s the best plug for backpackers looking for a new country to discover. It is incredibly English speaking friendly, and very eager to increase their tourist industry. The result is prices are ridiculously cheap, and the country will most likely become a hub for backpackers and tourists in the next decade or so.
However, if you backpack there now, you can still enjoy plenty of tourist free activities and accommodations for cheap; you can find a private room in Tbilisi for around $7 per night, and even cheaper if you’re willing to buy lighter meals from street vendors.
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16. East Timor
East Timor may be another Southeast Asian country, but it has a much different vibe and culture than other backpacking destinations like Thailand or Indonesia. It has a lot of Portuguese influence, thanks to its history, so if you’ve always wanted to visit Portugal but can’t afford the prices, East Timor can be a fun alternative.
You can easily and cheaply get around the country via public bus, which averages about $2 per hour of travel time. There aren’t a lot of budget friendly accommodations, but backpackers can find dorm style hostel rooms for under $15 a night. The cheapest, and tastiest part, is the food; street vendors are everywhere, and you can easily budget around $3 for delicious street food.
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While visiting the affluent Vancouver may cost you a bit, you can still enjoy backpacking in other parts of Canada for the same price as other cheaper countries. Montreal is incredibly backpacking friendly, with hostel prices for dorm rooms starting at around $15 a night. There are plenty of free things to do and enjoy, and if you’re willing to buy groceries and live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit you can usually stay under $15 a day for food.
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Cuba can be notoriously difficult to get into, but those who do can enjoy a country filled with vibrant colors, culture, and simple bragging rights of having been to Cuba. The best way to enjoy the country is by bus; the fares are cheap and the buses are ancient and full of character. A hostel in Havana will cost around $10 a night, while each meal will only cost a few dollars per meal.
One of the best parts of visiting Djibouti is coming back home and watching your friends try to mask their confusion at the mention of a country they’ve never heard of before. The fact that it is so unknown helps keep the prices somewhat low; it’s not as cheap as other areas of Africa, but it’s still a really great country to backpack through. And it won’t take you long; the entire country is about the size of Vermont.
Hostel prices can be a bit steep for backpacking standards, running about $20 a night, but you are welcome to try to barter a deal. Food is inexpensive and plentiful; a full blown meal at a restaurant will only cost you around $5.
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In the Philippines, Backpackers can get a room for around $8 a night, and spend about $2 to 3 on each meal at any restaurant or street vendor. While not as popular as Thailand, the country's tourism has been on an upswing lately, thanks to its incredible wealth of natural wonders. Plus, it has plenty of outdoor thrills to offer to outdoor lovers and adrenaline junkies. And, did I mention that it's incredible diverse, when it comes to landscapes?
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Parts of Indonesia may seem unattainable, and you’d be right; for the average backpacker, staying in the same room as surfers from the land down under on Spring Break may seem both pricey and touristy. But skip the main Bali crowd and take your backpacking essentials to the nearby island of Lombok, which still offers plenty of bang for your buck without competing against the tourist crowd.
If you’re really feeling adventurous and in the mood for an authentic Indonesian backpacker experience, pick pretty much any island as far away from Ubud as possible; there you can easily find an a full dinner for around $2 and tasty snacks and food vendor treats for half of that. Finding a place to stay can run you a few bucks for a shared dorm to a private Indonesian paradise for only $10 a night.
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Armenia is a great country to backpack around; nearly every town has a hostel that averages a few dollars per night’s stay, and public transportation between towns are notoriously inexpensive. Backpackers can easily afford to eat out and only spend around $4 a meal. You can take a day trip from the capital city for only about $15, and easily experience all of Armenia’s beauty without running into a hoard of tourists.
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Myanmar often gets forgotten in the list of Southeast Asia backpacking countries people have backpacked, and that’s exactly why you should visit. It’s off the beaten track, and it’s undiscovered side equates to plenty of cheap places to stay and things to do. It offers all of the things Thailand does, but without a tourist in sight. You can easily spend less than $10 a night for a simple hostel room throughout the country, including the bigger cities. Browse food stalls and keep to the streets for your meals, where you’ll be able to enjoy authentic dishes and even seafood for only a couple dollars per meal.
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If you’re the kind of backpacker who dreams of hiking the PCT, i.e. ok without taking a shower and living in minimal comfort, then India is your backpacking paradise. While there are plenty of accommodation choices that rival the best hotels in the world, if you’re willing to stay in the most basic of conditions, you can easily book hostels that will run you only a dollar or two per night. But what you give up in personal comfort you’ll make up for at mealtimes; Indian cuisine is to die for and wonderfully cheap. You can gorge yourself happily on authentic dishes from restaurants for only a few dollars, while lighter meals can be bought on the street for only a few cents. The entire Indian economy works on a bartering system, so if you’re willing to work for a deal, India has the potential to be a great place to enjoy travel on the cheap.
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Backpacking through Morocco is the best way to experience the country. Food is incredibly cheap, and if you’re up for buying most of your meals from street vendors and market stalls you can easily eat like a prince while surviving off of less than $13 a day for food.
Thirsty? Freshly squeezed orange juice or freshly brewed tea will only cost you a few cents. You can easily find hostels in Marrakesh for around $5 a night, and while transportation can be sketchy, you can get around safely for only a few dollars for a bus ride or taxi fare.
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