20 Cheap International Vacations For Travelers On A Budget

It feels like the cost of everything is sneaking up, with a marked increase in groceries, gas bills, house prices, and public transport. And that's before we even get to the topic of international travel, which (given the increase in fees for everything else) might feel like a world away. But we're here to tell you that it's perfectly possible to experience what the rest of the globe has to offer — all you need is a little help from your friends at Explore, and that dream vacation is ready to become a reality — even with the tightest of purse strings. 

From the warm turquoise waters of Indonesia and the tropical rainforests of Malaysia to soul-stirring Bulgaria and colorful India, there's something for every budget, complete with a handful of money-saving tips to reduce costs even further. Starting with the good people at Hostelworld — why not book your shared accommodation there? Or, see if you can't bag the cheapest of all flights on Skyscanner.

Before we dig into the unbelievably affordable destinations, it's crucial to signpost how we put this list together. We primarily relied on personal experience to determine the cheap international vacations. We've provided a more detailed look at how we decided which countries to include and how we got to the daily average spend for each at the end of this article. Now, grab yourself a drink, and let us guide you through the most budget-friendly holiday hotspots for your next adventure.

1. India

Brimming with dramatic landscapes, white-sand beaches, and tantalizing food, India offers a plethora of soul-stirring experiences — without burning a hole in your pocket. Aside from the cost of flights, you'll find this part of the world is very easy to explore cheaply. If you're careful, we're talking an average of $18 per day. This means staying in shared hostel rooms, eating local food, and using public transport. Don't believe us? Hostels and guesthouses are often no more than $5 per night, while you can expect to fill your tummy with mouthwatering delicacies for just $2. And public buses are very cheap indeed — it's possible to get from Delhi to Agra for just $4!

Wondering how much it would cost to up things just a little bit more in the comfort stakes? Budget for $50 per day, and you can expect to stay in a private hotel room with air conditioning, enjoy sit-down meals and get around in a private taxi. Given India's vastness, you might be unsure where to base yourself, but you're spoilt for choice when it comes to budget-friendly destinations there. Head to the mountainous, holy region of Rishikesh, otherwise known as "The Land of Yoga," for a spot of self-love, visit the home of the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, journey to India's "Pink City" in Jaipur for mesmerizing forts, or make your way to well-known Goa for an affordable beach break with sun, sea, sand, seafood, and spirituality.

2. Laos

Laos is perhaps one of the most affordable countries to visit in the world, and you don't need to be a backpacker to realize it. The "Land of A Million Elephants" packs a real punch when it comes to culture, food, and stunning scenery, meaning even those on a tight shoestring budget can explore happily. $20 a day is all you'll need, but it means sleeping in hostel dorms (around $5 per night) and eating only local food to free you up for all the amazing trips and tours available in this part of the world. Renting a scooter comes in at about $5 per day, and it's perfectly possible to get yourself a hearty meal for no more than $2, alongside the odd beer for a little over $1.

Fancy a private room? You need only push this budget up to $35 per day for a quieter, more comfortable stay, with boutique guesthouses and solid air conditioning, as much alcohol as your liver can put up with, and the odd Western meal thrown in for good measure. It will also allow you to travel up and down the country freely via flash new trains, with each journey costing between $5 and $20, depending on the desired location. Speaking of which, the world's your oyster regarding budget-friendly stops in Laos. This proud nation offers incredible bang for your buck, from stunning waterfalls in Luang Prabang to crystal clear lagoons in Vang Vieng.

3. Cuba

Cuba is a romantic and colorful travel destination that can be affordable, depending on how you go about it. On a low-cost budget, you can expect to spend about $20 per day in Cuba or $120 on a mid-range budget. The key is to avoid staying in expensive luxury tourist hotels and instead look for locally-owned and family-operated "casas particulares." These may cost anywhere from $20 in small towns to about $45 in the more popular tourist cities. Most casas particulares also serve food at cheaper prices than many nearby restaurants.

Avoid visiting during the peak season between November and March and shoot for the off-season months of May, June, September, and October. Instead of paying for museums and art galleries, seek street art, parks with sculptures, or free-entry places. Plus, you can buy a cocktail or beer for under five dollars if you avoid the touristy bars.

4. Vietnam

Vietnam neighbors Cambodia and Thailand in Southeast Asia, so it's no wonder this country is also a low-cost international travel destination. Vietnam has plenty to offer, from limestone mountains and temples to majestic caves and cultural cities. Meals are just a few bucks each; if you fancy a beer, it's only about 20 cents. You can even find hotel rooms for $10 a night without skimping on comfort.

Most people can spend a day exploring Vietnam and only pay $25. Up this to around $46 per day, and you'll have a much more comfortable stay – a cheap hotel, eating at the occasional chain restaurant, and paid activities. To avoid spending more than your budget, book lodging with complimentary breakfast and water included and share transportation with other people to split the costs. Opt for Uber if they exist in the area you're visiting to avoid being scammed by taxi drivers. If you do take a taxi, make sure to agree on a price before leaving. 

5. Malaysia

Are you looking for a real adventure without the hefty costs? Malaysia's your ticket, offering buzzing metropolises, glistening waterfalls, dense tropical rainforests, and a breathtaking beach vacation on Langkawi Island. It provides unbelievable value for your money, too — $25 a day is a sufficient shoestring budget, which will see you sleeping in hostel dorms (around $12 per night), eating delicious street food ($3 a dish), and getting around on fantastically well-organized public transport. Buses from the north-western city of Penang to Malaysia's sleek and modern capital, Kuala Lumpur, will only set you back $9, and the transport app Grab offers outstanding value taxi journeys across all the major cities.

If you can increase your budget to $63 a day, you'll have the means to fork out for a private room in a hostel each night, with the occasional cheap hotel thrown in. Not to mention the privilege of enjoying a few drinks and a range of paid activities. The Cameron Highlands tea plantations tour, Langkawi Island's magnificent Sky Bridge, a trip up to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, or an unforgettable visit to Taman Negara National Park, anyone? If you're looking to scuba dive at world-famous Sipadan Island, you'll need to part with a little extra to share the ocean with barracudas, manta rays, and whale sharks. But a handful of budget-friendly dive lodges offer 3-day packages here, including food and accommodation, for just $120 total.

6. Indonesia

Exploring Indonesia can be inexpensive, depending on how you travel. You can get by on as little as $28 each day. Meanwhile, $71 a day will offer you more comfortable options. This Southeast Asian country is made up of 17,500 islands, and 40% of them are undeveloped and unpopulated. Island hopping and traveling between cities isn't cheap, so the trick to a cost-effective Indonesian vacation is to pick one region and really dive deep. Bali seems to be the most popular of the well-known destinations, as it offers a little bit of something for everyone, from waterfalls and white sand beaches to rice terraces and ancient temple ruins. Bali is even home to some unique black sand beaches.

Hiking Bali's natural wonders and lounging on the beach are technically free; you'll just need to pay for transportation. Your cheapest options are renting a bicycle or taking the local public microbus called Bemo. Renting a motorcycle or scooter is only $4-10 a day, but the roads can be quite harrowing, so be wary of that option. You can find hostels for $5-10 per night here and spend $5-$15 on meals daily. Depending on your haggling skills, you might be able to land a fair price on scuba diving or a surfboard rental. 

7. Sri Lanka

You need not break the bank for a visit to this Asian gem, but what you get in return is warm and friendly hospitality, palm-fringed golden sandy beaches, and an island country offering you the chance to spot plentiful wildlife up close. $30 is a good daily budget for Sri Lanka if you're happy to go the backpacker route or accept you'll be staying in hostels for the entirety of your trip. Per night, this will likely set you back around $12, with a private room (including a fan and mosquito net) coming in around $20. It also means eating incredibly flavorful street food for the most part (usually less than $2 per dish) but with the occasional sit-down meal and getting around by public transport — bus journeys often cost less than $1, and you can always try sharpening your haggling skills with Tuk Tuk drivers! There are also plenty of free activities to tick off in this region, including a series of unforgettable hikes in the mountainous region of Ella, not to mention Adam's Peak in southwestern Sri Lanka.

You'll need to up the budget to around $55 a day if you'd prefer a private room with air conditioning or to rest your head at a boutique-style guesthouse. This kind of money will also allow you to eat out at established restaurants and get stuck into some of Sri Lanka's bucket list activities, including the famous elephant safari and shark cage diving.

8. Columbia

Columbia has a bad reputation for being a dangerous country, but in fact, the locals are quite friendly and welcoming to tourists. While there are still some places you should try to avoid, overall, a trip to Columbia can be both compelling and affordable. The country is large and has a wide variety of attractions, from breathtaking beaches and countless national parks to bustling cities with street art and jaw-dropping architecture. The exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Colombian Peso is strong — $30 a day is a good amount for a budget holiday in Columbia, while $61 a day is still affordable but gives you a little more luxury and privacy in the form of private rooms and public transport.

To cater an economical trip in Colombia, opt for street food, hostels or cheap Airbnbs, free walking city tours, public transportation, and avoid touristy areas. If you want to visit some of the phenomenal nature destinations, remember that most national parks charge an entrance fee. For example, a visit to the Caribbean coastline of Tayrona National Park is about $10. Still, you can sleep in a tent or hammock right on the beach for pretty cheap — just make sure to book it ahead of time. However, visiting the iconic Cocora Valley is only about $1. It is a bucket list trip for many, with its seemingly mile-high wax palm trees and green glowing valleys.

9. Nepal

One of Asia's most affordable tourist destinations, Nepal offers astonishing mountain views, cheap food, lodging, and economical public transportation. $30 is a comfortable backpacker-style budget for Nepal, but $70 is a good mid-range option for a more comfortable holiday. Backpacking through the Himalayas is considered inexpensive compared to other mountain trekking destinations, so long as you don't go through a guide, which can often be overpriced.

For better deals, avoid the busy season in October and November and shoot for the off-season during the spring, winter, or monsoon months. Also, don't be afraid to haggle, even on room rates. To save money on food, seek out the local "bhojanalayas," basic food spots offering simple but delicious eats. Nepal also has cheap street food, and your trip wouldn't be complete without trying samosas, dumplings, and local tea. 

10. Bulgaria

Despite its golden beaches, buzzing nightlife, and jaw-dropping mountains, Bulgaria often flies under the radar for those hitting it up in the region — a strange phenomenon, seeing as it hosts one of the best European cities for budget travelers. If you're backpacking here or plain old frugal, it's possible to get by on just $31 a day. Bear in mind this means sleeping in hostel dorms ($11 per night), using public transport to get around the city ($5), and cooking most of your own meals. It's fairly easy to keep costs down in other ways, too. The best time to visit Bulgaria if you're on a budget is in January because of cheaper flights, but if you'd prefer summertime, save a few bucks each day by grabbing your breakfast at local bakeries selling cheap (and filling) pastries by the name of banica and krenvirshka. Not to mention joining the free walking tours on offer in the likes of Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, and Plovdiv.

Fancy sleeping somewhere more private and the luxury of eating out more frequently? Set your max spend to $77 per day. With this sort of money, it's possible to find a cheap hotel room ($30 per night) and enjoy fast food or a sit-down meal for $20 per dish. This budget will also allow you to take the occasional taxi and get sucked into more tours and activities — who wouldn't want to explore the dramatic Rila Mountains?

11. Thailand

If you love Thai food, a trip to Thailand is a must. A neighbor to Cambodia, this country also boasts majestic ancient ruins, stunning tropical beaches, and rich culture. While the beaches and islands in the south are picturesque places straight out of a calendar, they are also more expensive to visit — sometimes more than double the price of northern Thailand destinations. Thailand's capital, Bangkok, falls between expensive and mid-range; you can expect to spend about $60 a day there. 

However, northern Thailand is both economical and exciting to visit- it's also less touristy, meaning it is a more authentic and culturally immersive experience. In sought-out cities like Chiang Mai and Pai, you can plan on spending about $5-15 on food and $5-10 a night for hostels. Chiang Mai also has many no-cost attractions, from cabarets to the Sunday Night Market, which is free to stroll but hard to walk away from empty-handed. The city also has over 300 Buddhist temples that can be visited at a far cheaper price than Angkor Wat. Nearby Pai offers waterfalls, canyons, and hot springs, all of which are free or inexpensive experiences. Overall, you can get away with paying around $32 per day in Thailand if you're on a budget. But $75 a day is an excellent mid-range option.

12. Guatemala

Nestled in Central America, Guatemala is an underrated and often overlooked gem. Stunning nature backdrops, friendly locals, and Mayan temples make this destination unforgettable. $32 per day is ample for a trip to Guatemala, while around $83 per day will score you a more comfortable trip with private rooms and guided tours. Street food is abundant and inexpensive, and you can grab a drink at a bar for under $5. Hostel rooms range from $10-20, and affordable Airbnb options abound. Your accommodation will be even cheaper if you enjoy camping and have space in your luggage for a tent since plenty of hostels have camping areas. Some places even offer hammock rentals and a spot to sling it up for just $5 a night.

If you don't mind the rain, visiting in the off-season between May and October provides fewer crowds and better deals. Popular destinations in Guatemala include the Mayan temples of Tikal, Lake Atitlan, its surrounding hippie villages, and the jungle vibes and river of Semuc Champey. Transportation to these attractions may be your most significant expense; if you're feeling adventurous, ride in a chicken bus, a retired school bus now used for public transit. Getting from Antigua to Lake Atitlan on a chicken bus can cost as little as $8. At the same time, the loud music and flashy designs on the bus may seem like a party; beware that passengers are packed in tight, and the standing room is shoulder-to-shoulder. Theft is also quite common on chicken buses, so keep your wallet and phone tucked away.

13. Peru

Peru is known as one of South America's most affordable vacation destinations. $37 a day could be enough to get you by on a budget, but $108 is a solid mid-range budget that means you can eat out more often and enjoy the luxury of your own room. Thanks to Machu Picchu, ancient ruins considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Peru is on many people's bucket lists. While the entrance fee is costly, currently $45, it is attainable with some budget planning. There are other beautiful landscapes to visit in Peru that don't have such a pricey entrance fee, like Lake Titicaca, the Andes, and the Amazon rainforest.

Aim to save money on food by avoiding touristy spots and following the cliche of "eating where the locals go." Further, try to DIY your sightseeing instead of paying for a tour. You can also find budget-friendly hostels and hotel rooms in Peru. In addition, be on the lookout for scams: Always count your change when you get it back; remember, tipping is not customary here, and if you take a taxi, settle on a price before taking off to avoid being overcharged. 

14. Mexico

Mexico has a fantastic culture, great food, charming cities, and beautiful nature getaways. If you're on a budget, $40 per day is possible there, but if you can stretch to $75, you'll be in for a much more comfortable trip. Most cities have street tacos that cost less than $1 apiece. You can easily get away with spending anywhere from $8-$15 daily on food and the same per night for a hostel. However, Mexico is a vast country, so the key to traveling here on a budget is to pick one region and stay there. Transportation between cities can be costly and time-consuming. One of the most popular cultural cities to visit is Mexico City, where you can find cheap Airbnbs and even affordable luxury hotels.

If you're craving more of a beach vacation, the Yucatan Peninsula is the place to be. Just stick to staying in hostels and traveling by bus to keep it economical. Not only does the Yucatan Peninsula offer iconic white sand beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, and delicious authentic Mexican food, but it's also home to the cenotes, which are underwater caves that boast beautiful aquamarine colors and aquatic life. While diving or snorkeling around them is a bit more pricey, you can pay just $3 to visit one to go swimming for the day.

15. Cambodia

This Southeast Asian country is home to beautiful beaches, spectacular temple ruins, and much more. You could enjoy your time here by spending $45 per day, including lodging. Many hostels charge only $ 6-8 per night, and some even come with breakfast (though don't expect this to be common). Eating out at a restaurant is about $3-10, but you could also get full off a street meal for $1-3. For transportation, consider renting a motorbike, a fun way to sightsee and get around for only $6-15 a day. You can also buy an intercity bus ticket or take tuk tuks, the area's version of taxi cabs — but if you opt for the latter, you'll want to brush up on your haggling skills since tuk-tuk drivers are known for overcharging tourists. Wherever you go, don't skimp on the tips; Cambodia is heavy with poverty, and locals are still recovering from the massive genocide by the Khmer Rouge that ended in 1979.

While you can make do with $45, increasing your budget to $90 daily will offer you a more comfortable stay in Cambodia. This range opens up upgrades like staying at cheap hotels or private hostel rooms and dining at fancier restaurants. Bear in mind that one of the most expensive things to do in Cambodia is a trip to Angkor Wat, the most iconic temple ruins in the area. Ticket prices range from $37-$103 depending on the days you wish to go and if you buy them in person or online.

16. South Africa

This country is sometimes on the expensive-to-travel list, but lately, South Africa has become a low-cost destination due to the excellent exchange rate. You could get away with $46 per day on a shoestring budget in South Africa, but $102 per day will be a more comfortable trip. Hostels remain the cheapest accommodation at just $10-15 per night. However, camping is also an option, and you may be able to find economical hotels and Airbnb options due to the exchange rate.

To save money on food, you'll want to factor in lodging with a kitchen; that way, you can cook some meals on your own instead of always eating out. Saving money on food and accommodation will allow you to splurge on a fancy restaurant now and then or even budget for your dream safari trip. We also recommend renting a car or opting for public transport like buses. Just be sure to check rental car prices across different companies like Priceline, Expedia, and Autoslash to get the best deals. 

17. Albania

Incredible mountain scenery, enchanting castles, and dreamy beaches are just three reasons to make your way to Albania, but that's not all. Although a touch more expensive than Bulgaria, the "Land of Eagles" is a cheap vacation by European standards, not to mention a more affordable alternative to nearby Greece. At the lowest end — $47 per day is a solid shoestring budget to aim for, although it requires you to stay in hostels ($14 per night), cook most of your meals, abstain from drinking much alcohol, and use public transport (around $10 per day). Having said this, many of Albania's most popular spots are walkable, meaning you can often save a few bucks. Like Bulgaria, it's also possible to join in with free walking tours in the country's captivating cities like Tirana, Berat, and Shokdër. Buying groceries for making your own meals is affordable, too, especially if you pick them up fresh from farmer's markets.

If you're looking for a touch more luxury, $95 is the mid-range budget to set. It will allow you to enjoy plush private accommodation and explore famous sites like the Palace of Brigades in Tirana and the National Museum of Medieval Art in Korçë. You can also expect to eat out at a handful of restaurants and let your hair down when it comes to Albania's buzzing nightlife scene.

18. Bosnia-Herzegovina

When planning a low-cost international trip, Europe generally isn't the first place that comes to mind. However, Eastern Europe is much more affordable than its Western neighbors. Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the most economical Eastern European countries, and you can easily get by spending just $48 a day there or about $90 per day on a mid-range budget. Some popular destinations in the country include the capital, Sarajevo, for its impressive architecture and Mostar, a quaint Medieval town.

Hostel rooms range from $15-20 per night and you might be able to find an Airbnb for about $20, but hotels will be more pricey. Book your first night or two ahead of time, then do some legwork once you get there to find better lodging deals by asking locals. Most meals are a bargain — you can get cevapi, a type of grilled sausage, and Bosnian coffee for just a couple of bucks. A full meal, complete with several beers, can easily cost you under $15.  

19. China

An affordable international vacation list wouldn't be complete without mentioning China. Visiting the cities of China, you can land a $20 hostel room, a meal for under five bucks, and a bus ticket that won't cost more than one dollar. However, if you can go to the countryside, you'll spend even less. If your ideal trip to China involves indulging in some beers now and then, along with entrance fees to a few of your must-sees, you can still get by spending around $50 a day here. But move this up to $140 if you want to go for the mid-range budget option.

The country is vast, so if you want to see a few different places, your best bet is to travel by high-speed train or find a low-cost airline ticket — these are the most efficient and cost-effective options—the good news: Most Chinese food is affordable, and the cheapest food is still delicious.  

20. Greece

While not an obvious choice, visiting Greece can be inexpensive. You could get away with spending $66 per day in Greece on a budget. Up this to $144 a day for more mid-range options. For this country, timing is everything. Summer is the most popular season for tourists, so opt out of going in July or August and shoot for an off-season spring or fall trip. Some restaurants can be pretty expensive, so rather than eating out for every meal, plan to buy some groceries and have picnic lunches. Plus, you can find cheap street food on every corner, and you can't go to Greece without eating a gyro.

You can find hostels for $16-27 a night here, and depending on how many people are in your group, you can also track down some affordable Airbnb options. Free walking tours are everywhere, so you can cover all your must-see spots at no price. And if you want to visit the nearby islands, be sure to book an overnight ferry in advance at a cheaper price, which means you'll save money on accommodation for that evening.

How we chose the cheap international vacations

To claim a spot on our list of cheap international vacations, each country needed to record a daily shoestring budget of under $70, with all the bare necessities included, such as food, accommodation, transport, and a handful of activities. We identified each destination using personal budget travel experience, backed up by spending data gathered from travel expert Nomadic Matt's global destination guides. We've included a mid-range daily budget for each country, giving travelers who'd like to explore with a touch more comfort another affordable option.

We have ranked the destinations from lowest to highest based on the cheapest daily spend. If two countries had the same shoestring expenditure, we ranked them in order of the lowest mid-range spend. Lastly, we converted the average price per day in each destination from local currency into U.S. dollars, which means you should only use it as a general guide. Remember that these figures may go up or down due to ever-changing exchange rates.