Travelling the world doesn't have to cost the earth. We've scoured the globe for cheap places to travel, from South Africa to South America, and found 21 beautiful countries to visit on a budget. There's something for everyone, whether you're looking for a short, cheap holiday in Europe, or planning a low cost backpacking trip in Asia.
Book a holiday in this spectacular country and you’ll find towering mountains, unspoiled beaches and super-friendly locals. Perched on the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro is one of the world’s cheapest countries, largely due to the fact it’s still finding its feet after declaring independence from Serbia in 2006. Discover its rich cultural heritage in the capital Podgorica, where you’ll find ancient Roman villas, Orthodox monasteries and elegant mosques. Venture beyond the city for spectacular hiking routes, mountain biking and some of Europe’s best beaches. We’ve got plenty more suggestions for ways to spend your time in Montenegro, whether you’re interested in visiting a national park, or spending time in a monastery.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Hotel Bambis
Rooms: From £24 a night per double room*
Medieval castles, charming villages, lively towns and sandy white beaches: Portugal has all the ingredients for a very special holiday. Good news for your wallet too: the cost of living is lower than in France, Spain and Italy. Drink, dance and eat local cuisine during a city break in Lisbon or Lagoa, explore the beautiful vineyards in the Douro Valley or soak up the rays at one of the Algarve’s all-inclusive beach resorts.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Crowne Plaza Vilamoura
Rooms: From £89 a night per double room
Hungary is a fascinating melting pot of different cultures, and it’s also easy on the bank account. Sample traditional dishes such as goulash, or dine at one of the Budapest’s fantastic French and Chinese restaurants – you’ll be able to find every type of food in the city. Budapest is the capital and is an essential stop-off off. Sip traditional Kávéház (coffee) and sweat it out in a thermal pool, then take the plunge and spend a few days discovering the country by train to find the country’s most breathtaking, crowd-free vistas. Of course, there’s plenty more to do in Budapest – read our list of top 10 things to do to find out more about this intriguing city.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Royal Park Boutique hotel
Where: Budapest city centre
Rooms: From £35 a night per double room
Bulgaria is an ideal destination if you’re looking for a cheap European holiday. Chill out at one of the Black Sea resorts or head to cities like Sofia for a blend of culture, history and delicious cuisine. Sofia is the second-oldest city in Europe and it’s packed with museums and galleries. Our top tip for travelling on a budget in Bulgaria? The further east you get, the cheaper the living cost, although there are still plenty of budget hotels in Sofia and other tourist hot-spots.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Ramada Sofia
Where: Sofia city centre
Rooms: From £37 a night per double room
What’s not to love about Greece? You’ll find endless kilometres of stunning coastline, awe-inducing archaeological ruins, and more feta, oregano and ouzo that you can consume in a lifetime. Greece’s unfortunate financial troubles have meant that holidays to this beautiful part of the world is still incredibly cheap, whether you want to discover the cultural heritage in the capital of Athens, flop down on the beach, or sample some local wine at a Greek vineyard. If you fancy some island-hopping but are keen to avoid expensive airfares, check out the inter-island ferry operators, like Hellenic Seaways or Seajets.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Hotel Chic
Where: Athens city centre
Rooms: From £43 a night per double room
Miles of beaches, desert safaris, spectacular architecture, upscale malls and colourful souks: Dubai has become one of the most popular destinations for a city break. And it doesn’t need to cost the earth, either. With Dubai’s Expo 2020 coming up, hotels are being built at lightning speed, and there are more budget hotels in Dubai than ever before. Climb the Burj Khalifa, wander through the old district of Al Bastakiya looking for cost-price gems and breath in the exotic fragrances at the Deira Spice Souk. If you’re planning a budget holiday in Dubai, avoid hotels in high-traffic areas like The Palm, and opt for one nearer the city centre instead. The majority offer free shuttle services to Dubai’s main attractions, so don’t worry – you won’t miss out.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Ramada Sharjah
Rooms: From £55 a night per double room
Israel is a country with a breathtaking beauty, full of natural wonders like the Dead Sea, the green valleys of the Israel National Trail and the coloured canyon Maktesh Ramon. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan cities offering all the ingredients for an exotic budget break. Marvel at the country’s history in Jerusalem, soak sample some traditional cuisine in the old port in the city of Jaffa and shop in Tel Aviv’s stylish boutiques.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Maris Hotel
Rooms: From £47 a night per double room
This Asian country is especially popular with school leavers and backpackers, as well as holidaymakers who want five-star luxury without the budget-busting price tag. Head to Siem Reap, the town closes to the Angkor Wat temple complex,and you’ll be able to spend the night in a five-star luxury spa hotel for under £100. But don’t forget to check out Cambodia’s cities, too, whether it’s historic Phnom Penh or the coastal Sihanoukville, with its beautiful beaches and fantastic diving opportunities.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Suites and Sweet Hotel Resort Angkor
Where: Siem Reap
Rooms: From £37 a night per double room
Vietnam’s one of the world’s cheapest countries, and it’s easily accessible, too – it’s big enough to spend several weeks in, but it’s also perfectly positioned to work as an add-on to a multi-country Asia trip. Cities like Hanoi (in the north) and Ho Chi Minh(in the south) are fragrant, frenetic destinations with a fast pace of life and more temples than you can can shake a stick at, but venture away from these urban centres and you’ll discover endless, rolling green hills and wildlife-filled national parks. Just make sure you take time to visit Ha Long Bay in the north. Pay a couple of pounds for a boat ride past the region’s towering limestone pillars.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Halong Bay View Hostel
Where: Halong Bay
Rooms: From £2 a night per bed
Head to India and you’ll be able to live like a Bollywood superstar for 1,500 rupees (£22) a day. One of the factors which make it one of Asia’s cheapest countries is the wonderfully cheap transport. You’ll be able to travel cheaply across India in first class on trains like the Shatabdi Express and taxis are ridiculously good value, too – especially outside of the biggest cities. But bear in mind that India is the seventh largest country in the world, so if you’re planning a visit, it’s worth having a basic itinerary in mind. Some of the most popular destinations include the coastal state of Goa, Rajasthan in northern India and, of course, Delhi.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Ocean Palms Goa
Rooms: From £56 a night per double room
11. Sri Lanka
White sand beaches, mist-shrouded mountains and tea plantations make Sri Lanka one of the world’s most jaw-droppingly beautiful countries to visit, and it’s also one of the cheapest places for a holiday. The country’s experienced something of a tourist boom in recent years, but you’ll still find plenty of space. More importantly, prices haven’t been affected by its growing popularity. You’ll be able to survive on around £30 a day – including accommodation. The most selfie-worthy sites include Sri Maha Bodhiya (tree temple) in Anuradhapura and Sri Dhalada Maligawa (Temple teeth) in Kandy – two of the country’s most sacred places.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Hotel Hilltop
Rooms: From £46 a night per double room
12. Nashville, Tennessee, USA
For country music lovers, a trip to Nashville is the ultimate pilgrimage. The music scene here is livelier than ever: there’s live music seven days a week and you’ll be able to see world class country music legends for a fraction of the price you’d pay to see them elsewhere. Hotels and restaurants are refreshingly cheap, and the city’s small size makes it blissfully easy to navigate. The Country Music Hall of Fame might be one of Nashville’s most popular attractions, but to get beneath the skin of this wonderful city, live like the locals do: get a caffeine fix at one of Nashville’s independent coffeehouses, float along Harpeth River in a canoe or sip a craft beer in Hillsboro Village.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Knights Inn Nashville downtown
Where: Nashville city centre
Rooms: From £67 a night per double room
13. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Tasty and affordable food, excellent live jazz and regular music festivals are just some of of the reasons to head to the Big Easy. It’s a budget-friendly city, too, because you’ll get the biggest insight into this southern city by simply exploring its streets, meeting locals and admiring the pastel-hued mansions. The best way to explore New Orleans is the tram. It’s an incredibly cheap way to get around and you’ll also conserve energy levels, which is particularly important in a city where you could easily find yourself dancing until dawn.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Madame Isabelle’s House
Where: Bayou Road
Rooms: From £52 a night per double room
Guatemala is perhaps the most diverse country in South America: its varied landscapes have been enthralling backpackers for decades. Top of your list should be archaeological sites Tikal or Copán, traditional Mayan villages like Rabinal or Laguna Chicabal and the cultural treasures in Guatemala City. Mercado Market in the centre of the city is a fantastic place to pick up souvenirs and delicious street food – just don’t be afraid to barter because the listed price is usually well above the amount sellers expect to take.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Hotel Casona De La Isla
Rooms: From £14 a night per double room
Volcanic landscapes? Check. Colonial architecture? Check. Sensational beaches? Check. Breathtaking rainforest? Check! Whether you’re a keen diver coming to admire the Caribbean sea’s coral-nibbling, rainbow-hued fish or a foodie drooling at the thought of the country’s culinary delights (try gallo pinto, a dish made with fried rice, onion and sweet pepper) – Nicaragua has it all. Although it’s had a troubled past, it’s now attracting growing numbers of tourists, but prices remain wonderfully low. If you’re spending more than a week in the country, consider starting with a few days in the capital coastal city of Managua to help you acclimatise, then head inland to check out its lush interior and national parks like the Indio-Maìz Biological Reserve, the largest lowland rainforest in Central America.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Hotel Internacional Managua
Rooms: From £47 a night per double room
South America might be one of the most popular regions for backpackers, but while getting around Chile, Peru and Argentina will now cost you much more than it did ten years ago, Bolivia remains incredibly cheap. Head to the weird and wonderful Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) and stay in a hotel made entirely from salt, or watch the pink flamingos gather on the shores of Lake Titicaca. In La Paz, the world’s second-highest city, wander through the witchcraft market (items on sale include llama foetuses, which are buried under houses to ward off back luck), sign up for a Red Cap walking tour for just three dollars, or cycle down the infamous Death Road.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Bolivian Passport Hotel
Where: La Paz
Rooms: From £21 a night per double room
Honduras’ unbelievably beautiful, palm tree-dotted beaches give the Maldives a run for their money in the Instagram stakes. Live like a local in the thriving port of Puerto Cortes or the charming coastal town of Omoa, filled with beautiful colonial forts. Admire the old Spanish houses and baroque squares and cathedrals in historic Comayagua, a small town two hours from Honduras’s capital of Tegucigalpa. While you’re there, don’t forget to fill up on some traditional Honduran cuisine, starting with one of the most popular dishes – a bistek (steak) sandwich.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Splash Inn Dive Resort
Rooms: From £68 a night per double room
Whether you fancy hiking through the jungle in the central plains of La Pampa, or clambering up the rugged Andes in the west with Chile, there’s plenty to see and do in Argentina. Buenos Aires is the sparkling capital which has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the most exciting cities on the planet, largely thanks to its colourful, flamboyant nightlife. And it’s also incredibly cheap – you can easily survive on around £30 a day here, and that’s including accommodation if you’re happy to stay in hostels. Stroll past the colourful mansions and enjoy the cool bohemian vibe in the San Telmo district, which has some of Buenos Aires’ cheapest restaurants and bars. To get off the beaten path, make a beeline for Patagonia in Southern Argentina. We’ve got plenty more suggestions of things to do in Buenos Aires, too – ever wanted to visit the city of the dead?
Cheap hotel suggestion: Vista Sol Buenos Aires
Where: Buenos Aires city centre
Rooms: From £23 a night per double room
Ethiopia might not be one of Africa’s most popular holiday spots, but that’s all the more reason to go – you’ll find less crowds and cheaper prices. Hike or bike your way across the Ethiopian highlands, or marvel at the ornate mosques and spice-filled souks in the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is one of the few African countries which managed to escape European colonisation, allowing it to retain its own cultural identity. As for what should be at the top of your itinerary? A wander around the historical treasures as the Aksumitetomben, a quick stop-off to check out the obelisks and seventeenth century castles in Tigray, and a hike through the Bale Mountains.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Ghion Hotel
Where: Addis Ababa city centre
Rooms: From £43 a night per double room
Egypt is making a comeback, and growing numbers of airlines are opening routes to the country, which is making an impressive comeback after years of political turmoil. Marvel at the spectacular historical monuments from a boat on the Nile or rent a car and go on your own exploration. Urban adventurers will love Cairo, while beach lovers and divers will be wowed by Red Sea resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Mercure Hurghada Hotel
Rooms: From £32 a night per double room
21. South Africa
South Africa is paradise for animal lovers, who can admire hippos swimming in the Limpopo River, penguins huddling in furry clusters on the Cape and elephants trundling across the grasslands. Lion-filled Kruger National Park is one of the world’s most popular safari destinations, but don’t miss bustling Cape Town, where you can enjoy a glass of local wine in the shadow of Table Mountain. Hotels can sometimes be a little expensive here, so consider opting for one of the city’s guesthouses.
Cheap hotel suggestion: Riversong Guest House
Where: Cape Town
Rooms: From £59 a night per double room
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*Published February 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only, for flights in March, and are correct at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.