From Asia to Central America, this year’s list of the best budget travel destinations has something for every type of traveler. Whether you want to stick close to home or venture off the beaten path, we have scoped out some of the best in cheap destinations with amazing experiences.
While some of these may be a bit more adventurous than some of you are looking for, we also include several places in the US that are a bit less touristy than your typical Los Angeles or New York trip while still offering a ton of things to do, amazing places to eat and fun for all ages.
10 Amazing Budget Travel Destinations for 2020
Thailand is an all around amazing budget travel destination for solo travelers, families and multi-gen groups. Thailand has everything from exciting city life to wildlife adventures and of course plenty of opportunities to relax beachside. Flights from major cities in the US to Bangkok can be found for super cheap, but the real budget begins once you arrive. Prices for eating out, flying internally and even Airbnb accomodation are low enough that most travelers can bump up their travel style.
Our recommendation is to spend a few days in Bangkok seeing the sites before heading down to the many island destinations on offer. We loved Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe the most.
Vietnam is a mecca for budget travelers offering stunning scenery, unique and compelling history and of course delicious fresh food. Our visit to Vietnam was one of the biggest surprises for us on the travel front. There are a myriad of great hands on activities to get everyone involved in experiencing the culture. From making Hoi An lanterns to kayaking on a Halong Bay Cruise to planting rice with buffalo this country knows how to entertain their guests.
We recommend flying into either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and working your way north or south. Internal flights are dirt cheap as are accommodation, food and activities throughout the country. Even if your flight here is a bit expensive, you can tour the country for cheap.
Another Asian destination worth your time and effort. Flights to Manila, Cebu and other locations are on the cheap at the moment. Once in country, you can choose between inland adventures, city visits or island hopping one of the more than 7000 islands. While hopping around isn’t as cheap as other Southeast Asia destinations, there are many ways to keep your costs down while in the Philippines.
Our top picks – spend a few days in Manila soaking up the modern city side of the country before flying to Cebu to start your island hopping dream. Don’t miss out on traveler’s hot spot El Nido or seeing tarsiers in the wild.
For Central America, most visitors head to Mexico for their cheap destination holiday. However, contrary to what you might believe Guatemala is safe and welcoming and the place to go for budget travel full of adventure (like hiking active volcanoes), history and spectacular scenery. Trust me you will fall in love with colonial town Antigua whether you are there for a few days or a few months. From colorful markets like Chichicastenango to the cute villages around Lake Atitlan, the vibrant Mayan culture is everywhere. Don’t miss a stop at the world famous ruins of Tikal to play real life Indiana Jones and spot some animals.
The most expensive part of any trip to Guatemala will be your flight to the country. Once you arrive, it is cheap and easy to get around using tourist shuttles, buses and even Uber. Food is plentiful, cheap and amazingly due to the many expats calling the country home these days.
Our other pick for Central America is Panama. This country offer so much from wildlife to beaches to vibrant city life at a fraction of the cost of it’s neighbor Costa Rica. While we love Costa Rica, it is no longer a budget destination. Instead, book your trip to Panama. Be wow’d by the Panama Canal, go on a photographic wildlife boat safari, explore the islands of Bocas del Toro and ride horses in the mountains. This country is small, but packs a punch with things to do. Not as cheap as SE Asia obviously, but closer to home and easy to travel in.
Brazil has lifted it’s arduous visa process for Americans and as such it is much easier to visit. Flights aren’t always cheap to Brazil, but once you are in country, you can be as budget conscious as you want. From seeing the highlights of Rio to the grand waterfalls of Iguazu Falls to the mighty Amazon, this massive country would take months to fully explore, so plan on hitting just a few spots. Internal flights aren’t cheap, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Peru is moving up in the charts for one of the more popular destinations for 2020. Always a hot spot for hikers and adventurers, you can add foodies to the list too. Even though rules are tightening for the number of people who can hike the Machu Picchu trail, the country is becoming more and more accessible to travelers. It’s been decades since my last visit, but even I am hankering to go back. From Instagram worthy photo sites like Rainbow Mountain to the colorful culture and historic ruins you are sure to find your way here. Getting to Peru can be cheap if you find a good deal (like $400 from LAX return!) and once you are in country it is even better.
Must visit places include Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu and if you have time the Amazon.
Bosnia, Sarajevo & Herzegovina
Europe is always a favorite for travelers, but with the Euro high it’s not the cheapest destination. Enter Serbia. Just on the edge of Europe this hidden gem is gaining traction in travel circles. Cobblestone alleys, architectural gems, and a variety of influences abound in this region. With the 1990s Balkan War behind it, the area is resurging with a vibrant cafe, bar and brewery culture. Apart from the foodies, nature lovers will also love getting out to the top of Mount Trebevic for spectacular views.
Croatia is starting to creep up the price scale, so hit it before it becomes too expensive. If you like beautiful turquoise water, Game of Thrones and beautiful architecture this is your place. The biggest tip is to travel in shoulder season as July and August are the countries busiest months where prices will increase. The best tips for Croatia is to rent a car, cruise around and then make time to do a little island hopping too!
With the Arab Spring uprising well behind them, Egypt is on the rise again. For a country that used to see millions of tourists a year, the country feels quite empty still. In some areas, locals say that they haven’t seen Americans in more than 8 years! This historic country is well worth a visit even if you do it on a tour. We highly recommend making time to explore the hectic streets of Cairo before spending time ooh’ing and ahh’ing at the Pyramids of Giza. Then head to Luxor for more mysteries of history. I know all travel warnings still say to avoid the Sinai Peninsula, but we found Dahab to be fantastic, cheap and has some of the best snorkeling in the world.
Looking for other options? A country that has been on our wishlist for ages and is also said to be friendly to a budget traveler is Morocco.
Bonus Places in the US
For those of you who don’t want to go off on an international trip, consider places close to home in the US that are budget friendly. Some of our favorite destinations that offer big bang for your buck include:
- US National Park focused trips like a road trip around Oregon
- Oregon is a beautiful state with a ton to do. The biggest expense here is accomodation – but that can be managed by planning a trip well in advance. Spend time outdoors, exploring hip towns and soaking up greenery all round.
- Austin and San Antonio
- Texas is a friendly state that is friendly on the budget too. There are so many amazing things to do in Texas to keep you busy, happy and well fed. We particularly love Austin and San Antonio, which make the perfect places to visit with history, culture and tons of outdoor adventures. Don’t forget to eat a lot of queso too!
- Montana is filled with amazing a natural scenery and small towns making it a great destination for budget travel. Spend your days in the great outdoors for free, picnicking with the wildlife (ok be careful there!) and spending money mostly on accommodation each day.
- Clearwater Florida
- Many parts of Florida are pricey, but get off the beaten path a bit and head up to Clearwater where the beaches are insane and the small town feel doesn’t break the budget.
- Arizona & Utah Road Trip
- You can roadtrip these Arizona and Utah for around $45 per person a day if you are budget conscious. For around $120 a day you can rent a campervan, and cruise from one amazing natural site to another.
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