As a frequent traveler, I’m often asked the secret to traveling on a budget. While I have a few tactics, a main one is choosing destinations where my budget stretches father and where I can still have a rewarding trip. Recently BYO Jet, a budget-oriented online travel agent based in Australia, asked me what my favorite affordable destinations were. Based on my personal experiences, I’d say:
1. Vilcabamba, Ecuador
For those wanting a budget-friendly wellness getaway among a culture said to be one of the longest living in the world, Vilcabamba is your place. Nicknamed the Valley of Longevity, Vilcabamba is full of hiking trails (Mandango is breathtaking!), inexpensive holistic health centers, vegan and raw restaurants, and mountains from which natural mineral water runs down.
For accommodation I recommend Hosteria Izhcayluma which has an onsite pool, spa and delicious indoor/outdoor restaurant with mountain views. Accommodation prices range from $9.50 to $36 per night.
2. Earth Lodge, Guatemala
Guatemala in general tends to be a beautiful budget-friendly destination, though Earth Lodge, an organic avocado farm accommodation, particularly stole my heart. Located about 30 minutes from Antigua, you can stay in a treehouse with a private hammock-adorned balcony overlooking Jocotenango Village, Ciudad Vieja, and the volcanoes of Acatenango, Agua and the active Fuego (though these views are visible from all the expansive property; it’s just cool to see them from your bed). Enjoy the homemade vegetarian food, family-style meals with new friends, outdoor games like badminton and corn hole, morning yoga, complimentary stone sauna, and Sunday barbecues with live music. Rates range from about $17 to $52 per night.
I’m a fan of anywhere I can homebase in one place and still enjoy a wide-array of experiences. In Slovenia one can easily spend their entire time in Ljubljana — the country’s capital — and take day trips to Lake Bled, Piran and Triglav National Park, which I loved for hiking. I also recommend a weekend stay in the countryside with a family of herb pickers at Herbal House where you’ll spend time with a local family picking herbs, cooking, making crafts and chatting over glasses of wine (or their homemade Jägermeister).
Another highlight of Ljubljana is the city center doesn’t allow cars, so you can have a glass of 2 Euro wine at a river-front cafe or bar in peace. For accommodation I loved Hostel Tresor, a modern money-themed hostel with two-to-12-bed rooms that was once a bank.
4. Roatan Island, Honduras
While Honduras isn’t exactly known as the world’s safest destination, if you head to Roatan Island you’ll be traveling on a budget in a relatively risk-free Caribbean paradise. This laid-back, beach-lined island has the translucent waters, snorkeling/diving trips, laid-back bars, hammock-adorned decks and intensely fresh seafood that make any island vacation worthwhile, though here you won’t spend a fortune to have a luxurious trip.
One of my favorite experiences was walking 45 minutes from our breezy accommodation, Posada Las Orquídeas, to West Bay Beach. Here my friends and I scored free-to-use beach beds and $6 frozen margaritas at Mayan Princess Beach Resort, right on the water! Accommodation starting rate: $30 per night.
5. Medellin, Colombia
I loved my entire trip to Colombia, and found traveling on a budget through this country to be pretty simple. Medellin in particular, however, stole my heart. I loved paragliding over the city, salsa dancing in the lively El Poblado district, feasting on heaping plates of bandeja paisa, and exploring the parks and museums. Depending how savvy you are you can visit on under $25 a day including hostel accommodation, though even when splurging I didn’t feel too guilty.
I also found it to be safer than many in the USA believe it to be, though I’d recommend some pickpocket-proof clothing to keep those valuables secure.
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sure, it may be one of the top places in the world for expats, but there are many reasons why: spiritual temples (typically free to visit), a wide array of cultural dishes that go well beyond Pad Thai, adventurous activities like jungle trekking and white water rafting, immersive homestays, and even the chance to get a spiritual bamboo tattoo from a local monk. And for many visitors, prices will seem inexpensive despite an impressive tourism infrastructure and quality offerings.
Just be careful about the abundance of available irresponsible tourism opportunities, like elephant trekking or tiger temples. Luckily, there are also a number of global good experiences to have in Chiang Mai. Many attractions and tours in Chiang Mai can also be found on BYO Jet for a discounted price.
7. Namibia, Africa
Namibia is in my top three for underrated destinations. Namibia has a strong tourism infrastructure with lots of professional guides, tours and attractions, and is also safe for tourists (though definitely know how to change a flat tire if you don’t have a driver, as the roads can be brutal). Head to Swakopmund for sandboarding and German culture (Namibia was once ruled by Germany) or go on safari in Etosha National Park.
My main highlight was visiting a traditional Himba Tribe and interacting with these people, though note your guide can make or break this experience. My guide was named George (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I highly recommend him for this. Finding beers for less than $2, meals for less than $5, camping for $10 or less, and comfortable hotel rooms for around $50 per night is not difficult.
8. Kerala, India
If you’re traveling on a budget, exploring Kerala for about $15-$20 per day is possible, though you may want to allot a bit more for activities. For nervous travelers who picture India to be overcrowded, dirty and a huge culture shock, Kerala is a good place to start. You can easily escape the crowds and find yourself river rafting through a bird sanctuary, staying overnight on an organic spice farm, hiking the world’s highest tea gardens or even biking through the entire state.
Don’t be afraid to try the food, either. Kerala has its own specialties separate from the rest of India, like flatbread topped with local curry (called Malabar Parotta with Kerala beef curry) and fish stew with coconut milk (known as Fish moilee). Note, though, the food here is known for being extra spicy, so speak up if you need the heat turned down.
Tip: Before heading out on your adventure make sure you’re covered in the event of an emergency. Travel insurance ensures you won’t end up footing a ridiculous bill if something goes wrong (and we all know that happens both at home and on the road).
Tip: Keep in mind, with a few tips and tricks under your belt you can travel for practically free almost anywhere!
What destination do you recommend for traveling on a budget? Please share in the comments below!
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter by Matt Kepnes [Great Reads]
Stay Fit With Yoga On The Go Online [Travel Health]
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