Scared of “Roughing it”? Travel to these 5 Countries Instead.
September 21, 2018
When I say “budget travel” or “hostel” or “street food” does it conjure images of bedbugs, 12-person dorm style sleeping arrangements, and eminent food poisoning? If I’m right on the nose then this post is specifically for YOU.
I would never turn down a travel opportunity at the expense of having to rough it. However, I know that most of the general population has some standards when it comes to cleanliness and comfort. And if you think that you can’t have that with budget travel then you are absolutely 1000% wrong. You’re just not looking in the right places. Here are my top 5 places in the world to travel right now “on a budget” while living like a queen.
Duh. Everyone knows someone who has gone to Thailand and if you thought their gorgeous photos came with a hefty price tag….wrong again.
Food: This country is street food GALORE. They basically invented it. Pad Thai, spiced sausages, drunken noodles, banana roteê, ice cream (the fun kind they roll up), chicken satay. The list goes on and on and you’re not going to spend more than 2$ on a meal. If you insist on skipping the street food **disappointed head shake** a meal in a nice Thai restaurant is only going to set you back 5-8$. You can get full table service, beverages, and phenomenal food for a fraction of what we pay for garbage fast food in America.
Sleeping: Yes, a dorm bed in Thailand is the absolute cheapest way to go costing around 8$ per night. But if you aren’t a solo traveler then it can be equally as cheap to split a room in a mid-range hotel or Airbnb. You can browse listings from 20-30$ that are entire apartments. Many with balcony views, private rooms in an adorable bed and breakfast, or a room in a beachfront resort. Hostels in SouthEast Asia are nothing like hostels in the USA. 99% of the time they are clean, there are no bed bugs, you get free/cheap breakfast, and you and your bags are safe.
Transport and the Fun Stuff: Whether you are a budget traveler or a resort go-er the activities and transportation in Thailand are the same. No surprise here, they are also famously cheap. Read through my guide on travel in Thailand to help you determine what areas you are most interested in and the activities you can find there.
This is a great first trip. The country is easy to navigate for an English-speaking tourist while still remaining completely foreign and eye-opening. If you are a foodie you’ll fall in love and if you aren’t..you’ll become one.
There is so much more to this magical island nation than Bali but even if that’s the only island you make it to, you won’t be disappointed. I spent one month hopping from island to island and spent around 1,000$ total. That’s like 33$ per day. During that time we were livin’ in style. My boyfriend and I ate at nice restaurants like Ku De Ta in Seminyak and we stayed in large air-conditioned rooms with either stunning infinity pools or the ocean right outside. This country is a cheap backpackers paradise disguised as a luxury honeymoon spot. For 10$ per person, you can stay in a personal beach villa (with air conditioning-very important) and get served a breakfast of banana pancakes (more like a crepe) or Nasi/Mie Goreng (breakfast fried rice/noodles) paired with fresh fruit, coffee, and a smoothie.
The key to scoring these deals is doing a little bit of research and then booking upon arrival. We simply walked up to these villas and asked for a room but if that seems like living on the edge then you can get nearly the same prices booking online at sites like booking.com.
Cool Places We Stayed
If you are interested in splurging and staying in a private treehouse in the jungle check out “The Alchemist” on Airbnb. The hotel is located near Uluwatu in the Southern portion of Bali and was SO COOL. It had the beautiful pool pictured above and felt like you were sleeping out in the open jungle (because you basically were, minus the mosquito nets). A tree-house is hands down the best way to sleep in the jungle <3
Ketapang Guesthouse-Canggu, Bali. Simple private rooms with A/C very close to the beach. No pool or anything fancy here but it was clean, cheap, private, and super close to all the fun Canggu has to offer.
Padangbai Beach Homestay. Great rooms and right by the ocean! Walking distance to the Blue Lagoon and to top it off the pool pictured above is right in the courtyard.
Want to check out a hostel with the dorm beds? Hostel Ons in Ubud is surrounded by great restaurants and 5 minutes walking distance from the Monkey Forest!
This trip is best suited for a romantic getaway or someone who loves the ocean. Or loves yoga. Or food. Getting to some of the islands beyond Bali can be either time-consuming or expensive but once there..complete beachy paradise. (Interested? Check out my post Beyond Bali.)
Not your cup of Tea?
Although I find that Asia truly offers the best bang for your buck maybe Europe or South America is more your thing. Any of these cheap destinations I believe even the more cautious traveler could find a beautiful Airbnb and have the time of their life.
Portugal around 60$ /day (*Estimated based on Nomadic Matt backpacker budget cost breakdown)
Tulum, Mexico for less than 50$ /day (safe and super trendy)
Vietnam (yeah, I know, back to Asia) 35$ /day
***These costs consider staying in private rooms, going out to eat for each meal, and a few activities a day. ***
What about flights?
Flights are often the most expensive part of a backpacker’s vacation and sometimes it can be hard to find the best deals and know when to buy. Luckily my flight finding secrets can help you make sure you are always getting the cheapest flight possible.
The biggest cost saver of “budget travel” isn’t staying in hostels or eating questionable food. It’s doing things on your own. Group activities or organized tour groups may be easy but they are a costly way to see a country. You will ALWAYS save money by exploring on your own rather than paying for a tour group. It’s way more fun to stumble upon the hidden gems tourists rarely see and make your own unique memories in a country. Rent the snorkel gear and explore the waters, follow the trails to the white sand beach, or taxi to the temples and walk around at your own pace.
The reward is that you get to save money while exploring more like a local and not like a tourist.
What it really comes down to is budget travel isn’t all that scary. Anywhere that it’s possible to “budget travel” it’s just as easy to “semi-budget travel”. Spend 5$ more on lodging and stay in a private room instead of a dorm. Spend 15$ more per day and eat in restaurants instead of off the street food vendors. Do activities on your own accord and stay away from organized group activities. Do all this and you’ll still experience an amazing culture on the cheap.
A piece of Advice: Don’t be scared of budget airlines! What with all the recent engine malfunctions and flight problems major airlines are having it has scared some people away from budget airlines offering the best deals. Spirit Airlines boasts “The Youngest Fleet”. AKA in my eyes…less likely to malfunction due to wear and tear ….and other smaller companies can say the same. Also, the odds of your plane crashing anyways is 1 in 1.2 million (that’s a real statistic).