Travel is a luxury, but just because it has that connotation doesn’t mean it should be reserved for only the very rich who have endless budgets to swan around the world on a whim!
Yes, travel is a luxury, it IS expensive to buy flights, it’s not always easy to get time off work, not to mention the costs of accommodation, food, transport. All these things add up and you can begin to feel completely despondent that travel is way out of your reach… and that a 2 week holiday is going to cost the earth.
Unfortunately so many people think that they can’t afford to travel internationally (esp us South Africans because our currency is so very weak…. I should know, I’m one of them!) For years I’ve thought that international travel is way out of our budget.
Except the problem with this thought is that by not traveling we’re actually poorer. You see on all my travels I’ve always come home with a far broader mind, an enlightened sense of being, an enthusiasm and energy that can’t be bought. Each trip has made me view the world, and the people in it, in a bright new light. I’ve come home far richer than when I left.
The real luxury of travel is not that it’s expensive, it’s that it opens up our minds and makes us richer people. That is a luxury that many don’t have – to be broad minded and open hearted. If more people travelled, the world would be a better place, richer in kindness, generosity, acceptance… and cash. Travel is one of the best ways to uplift the economic station of people in countries that have a lower GDP.
SO I am trying to encourage people (esp South Africans) to search for the travel spots where their cash can go further… and then to just do it! Yes, the flight price might make you gulp BUT once you land on the other side in these destinations you might be surprised at how affordable it can actually be to travel… Many times your day-to-day costs in another country can be cheaper than at home!
So I rounded up a few of the experts… travel bloggers & vloggers!
Over the past few years I’ve crossed paths with some of the most widely travelled individuals around and I knew they would be the best people to ask when it comes to determining The Most Affordable Countries to Travel to in 2017 (even for South Africans!!)
So I asked them:
“On all your international travels what is the one country or city or place in the world that you’ve found to be the most economical or kind to your budget in terms of day-to-day expenses/ food/ accommodation/ wifi/ transport?”
Here’s what they had to say…
Annika from The Midnight Blue Elephant
Countries visited: 37
One of my favorite countries, and one that I found really affordable even when paying with ZAR, is Morocco. While getting there isn’t cheap or easy once you are in the country you will find accommodation, transport, and food to be really affordable. Most cities have a wide selection of inexpensive little guest houses known as”riads” which are typical Moroccan houses usually beautifully decorated and quaint.
For those who seek something more luxurious on a holiday, Morocco has many beautiful luxury hotels providing good value for money. The country has excellent bus and train connections that will get you cheaply and safely from A to B but even hiring a private car with driver can be done on a budget. While foodies will be pleased with Moroccan cuisine, there are many great food options for us mere mortals as well. Roadside stalls and cafes cook up a storm of tagines, couscous and grilled meats for great prices. Three-course home cooked meals are served in most riads and these are usually inexpensive and, most importantly, super delicious… as is the freshly squeezed orange juice you can buy everywhere!
All other costs in Morocco will depend on your bartering skills. For tours, taxi drives and in most shops you can negotiate your price. Bartering is part of the whole sales pitch and if you know how to play the game, you can get amazing prices on leather goods, carpets, spices, and ceramics. Once a sales person calls you a ‘Berber’ you know you got it!
Iga from Eager Journeys
From: Johannesburg, South Africa
Currently: Johannesburg, South Africa
Countries visited: 35
Not only does Ethiopia boast spectacular landscapes, ancient artefacts and archaeological finds that date back three million years, but is also has 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites from royal burials grounds to national parks and fortified towns. It’s the birthplace of coffee, widely serves vegan food and boasts a friendly nation that enthusiastically showcases its culture and traditions. I was most fascinated by the 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, which were carved out of red volcanic tuff over 23 years and 6 months.
This landlocked country in the Horn of Africa is still an emerging holiday destination, and a favourable exchange rate (the Birr is around 2:1 to the Rand) means that prices aren’t inflated like in other African countries where US Dollars prevail. Ethiopia makes for an affordable holiday for South Africans, especially since its award-winning national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has direct flights to Addis Ababa from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Dawn from The Incidental Tourist
From: Cape Town, South Africa
Countries visited: 39
As South Africans look to stretch their rand to a holiday that offers a relaxing break with an undeniable touch of international flare and a taste of the exotic, I highly recommend a cruise off Mozambique’s east coast with MSC Cruises. Departing Durban with Passport stamped, you have the choice of a 3, 5 or 8 night cruise, with the length of stay determined by how many port stops you make.
The most affordable option has you onboard for 4 nights, with two days enjoyed on Portuguese island off Inhaca island, with activities such as snorkeling, hiking to the light house and indulging in the warm clear waters, among the many on offer. If a longer break is needed, extend your trip to include Pomene and Mozambique Island, which would offer an even better taste of Mozambique living. While on Mozambique soil, drink rum cocktails out of freshly picked coconuts, bargain for brightly coloured sarongs and pop in to the local restaurants for some freshly caught seafood. The entire experience is very photogenic.
The cruise package includes cabin accommodation – a balcony suite is recommended, access to all public lounges and the pool deck, shows and entertainment, most meals, as well as transfers to the off-shore destinations. A further tip to help the budget is to take out a drinks package, especially if you envisage sipping on mojitos as you take in the views across the Indian Ocean. Look out for themed journeys offered throughout the year and avoid the shops, unless of course duty free is too appealing a notion to pass up. And definitely order breakfast to be delivered to your room. This is something I can’t wait to do again.
Amelia from xameliax
Countries visited: 16
Bucharest in Romania doesn’t really jump to mind when you think of city breaks but it was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. It boasts fabulous warm weather in the summer, Europe’s largest spa, great night life and, of course, is home to Dracula’s castle!
Mike from Mike Dewey YouTube
From: California, USA
Currently: California, USA
Countries Visited: 35
It’s an amazing time for travel right now, there’s so many new budget friendly airlines that are popping up everyday and you just have to know where to look for the best deals. I use Skyscanner and currently from Cape Town you can fly to a handful of European cities for less than R5 000 return trip.
A country I’d recommend is Spain! It’s got a great affordable tapas food scene, beautiful beaches and something for everyone whether you’re a family or if looking to party the night away.
Dave from Travel Dave UK
From: London, England
Countries visited: 85+
My budget destination of choice is Tallinn, Estonia. This Baltic city is one of the most affordable to explore in Europe and has so much to offer. You simply can’t beat its value, especially in Europe. Find affordable hotel rooms in the Old Town of Tallinn as well as affordable drinks and places to eat.
Telliskivi Loomelinnak district is a fun area to explore around Tallinn. It’s a fun, creative city type of area that has a hipster like feel to it. Great to walk around, explore the endless supply of street art on offer. Many awesome eating spots located here worth trying too.
A trip to Tallinn wouldn’t be complete unless you spend some time exploring the old town of Tallinn. Exploring the old town is like going back in time to the 13th century. Enjoy exploring the UNESCO cobbled streets and getting lost!
Tallinn, Estonia won’t break your bank and still offer a lot of European history, culture and affordable fine dining, it’s not to be missed.
Barbara from Jet-Settera
Currently: London, England
Countries visited: 68
Budapest is a great destination for budget travellers. It is a reasonably priced city. The local currency is the forint and not the Euro, so it is significantly cheaper than most countries in the Euro zone that use the Euro. The infrastructure is very good and it is easy to get around Budapest and within the countryside. Here, travellers can find a good Air BnB for around 30 euros. A lunch or dinner at a restaurant is about 10 euros. Transportation is also fairly cheap within the city. A bus ticket costs about 1,20 euros.
The city has a rich history, with many beautiful sites to visit. Budapest is split by the river Danube into Buda and Pest. Tourists can visit the castle on the top of the hill in Buda. From up there they can see the entire city. Visitors can see the Roman ruins underneath the castle as well. The Turkish baths are all over the city and many tourists visit these while they are in Budapest. There are many good museums and great restaurants all over the city center. Young people will enjoy nightlife in the vibrant Jewish quarter. Some tourists also take a cruise down on the Danube to enjoy the surrounding views.
Mike from Kick the Grind
Currently: Mexico City
Countries visited: 41
While trying to find the cheapest way to Belize city from Canada, I discovered that there is an abundance of cheap flights to Cancun, Mexico. However this is quickly offset by the bloated cost of just about everything else once you arrive. My interest upon landing was just to check out a particularly interesting dive site, and then quickly escape down to Belize City with my wallet intact.
What I discovered in that extra day completely changed my perception of this country. Mexico is like an iceberg, we are familiar with the floating peak of margaritas, nachos, and sombreros (Mostly all TexMex from the USA by the way), and beneath the surface is an enormously rich, diverse, and beautiful country. For the next two years I couldn’t get enough. I have been traveling through the country in constant awe of what I’ve found… case in point the Exploding Hammer Festival featured in this video
SOUTH EAST ASIA
Stephen from A Backpacker’s Tale
From: Mid-West, United States
Currently: Somewhere in Europe
Countries visited: 64
Southeast Asia is insanely kind to budget travelers. Hostels and Airbnb’s in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam can be as cheap as $10 a day. Eating street food (which is more delicious than restaurant food) is as cheap as $2 a meal.
The price is one of the reasons why this area of the world has become so popular among travelers. However, not only is Southeast Asia wonderfully cheap but it is also beautiful, charming, and diverse which makes it a great place to visit.
Nikki from Pin the Map Project
From: United States
Currently: New York, United States
Countries visited: 33
I recently just visited Vietnam for the first time and was utterly blown away by the affordability of the country. It’s common knowledge that South East Asia is easy on the wallet, but I was still pleasantly surprised when handed a bill of $3 USD for a full meal and drinks.
For anyone traveling on a budget, I highly recommend a visit to Vietnam as a small amount of money can take you a long way and earn you some rather fantastic meals and experiences in the process.
Rob & Natalie from Love and Road
Countries visited: 50
Travel to Thailand is cheaper than you imagine and it’s one of the cheapest countries to travel. Flights to Thailand can be a bit pricey, but once you are there your money stretches (a lot). What I love about Thailand is the amount of offer they have for accommodation, food and activities. There you can go really on a budget and spend 5 USD for a bed in a dorm, or stay in a really nice resort for less than USD 100. Even the luxury travel in Thailand is affordable comparing with Europe and United States. Not to mention the food, the delicious Thai street food will cost you less than 3 USD per meal, if choose a local restaurant the price goes up to USD 4-5.
When it comes to attractions and activities, your money will last long too. Most of the Thai temples are free, in Bangkok you will need to visit the Wat Pho (3usd) and the Grand Palace (15usd). However, to wander around town, to visit the street markets and meet amazing local people you won’t spend a penny. At the islands and beaches the cost of food and activities are a bit higher, but nothing major.
The good news is that everything in Thailand is negotiable, the price of the tours, the boat rides and even that Thai massage by the beach. My secret is: always book tours in a small group! Talk to people on your hotel or hostel, or those friends you made by the beach, and go book the tour together. You always get an average of 20% discount if you buy a tour for more than 2 people. Transportation inside Thailand is not so expensive either, you can travel across Thailand using bus, trains and low cost airlines. My recommendation is to research a lot and plan your itinerary ahead, so you can estimate how much you gonna spend during your trip. If you need more information about how much does it cost to travel in the Land of Smiles, check our Thailand cost breakdown and travel budget.
Valerie from Trusted Travel Girl
From: United States
Currently: Los Angeles, United States
Countries visited: 55
When I chatted with Travel Channel’s star Samantha Brown last year, I naturally had to ask her which country was her favorite of all. Her response, “Cambodia”. This year, I made sure to take Samantha Brown’s advice and pay Cambodia a visit.
Cambodia is an incredible country with a dark and complex past, and it has travelers visiting in droves each year. Filled with wonderful people, delicious Asian cuisine and incredible historic sights, Cambodia should be towards the top of anyone’s travel list. Fortunately for travelers, Cambodia is extremely affordable. Meals can be as low as $3-5 each when eating out, massages as low as $8/hour, and a tuk-tuk (with driver) for an entire day at Angkor Wat is only $15-20. I took full advantage of this on my last trip, and I had a two and a half hour spa treatment for $55 while in Siem Reap. This treatment, which included a 90 minute massage, a facial and body scrub, would have been at least $350 in Los Angeles! The 5-star accommodations I chose, Sala Lodges, were only $250/night and would have have easily been at least $700/night in the states.
Cambodia is not only amazing for the friendly people and the world-renowned sights such as Angkor Wat, but it was wonderful to be able to afford luxuries that I would rarely splurge on at home. Although not quite as cheap as Thailand, Cambodia is an extremely budget-friendly destination. (It should be noted that all prices in Cambodia are in USD, and that is what I have used above)
Ricky from Daddy Blogger
From: Vancouver, Canada
Currently: Sao Paolo, Brazil
Countries visited: 60
We spent 1 month in the Philippines and absolutely loved the country, the people, and the food!! It is one of the cheapest countries in Asia. Plus, it is off-the-beaten track and not as touristy as some of the other South-East Asian countries. Everyone speaks English and it has a good tourist infrastructure for international travellers.
You can eat like a king and queen for very cheap, the taxis and Ubers are very affordable, and sightseeing & tours are inexpensive. Best of all, the gorgeous beaches that are found in the 7,000+ islands are 100% free for you to play at, swim in, and simply enjoy. It is one of our favourite counties in the world and after visiting, I am sure you will agree!
Kathryn from Becoming you
From: Cape Town, South Africa
Currently: Cape Town, South Africa
Countries visited: 16
And, finally, me! So, I’m certainly not as widely travelled as all my fellow travel blogging friends featured here… and that’s probably a very similar situation to what you find yourself in! (being “stuck” on the bottom tip of a continent with a weak currency does have it’s limitations!)
But I’m here to tell you that there still are place in the world that are within your reach… and I’m hoping this article has done that for you!
When it comes to my own contribution to this list of Most Affordable Countries to Travel to, I have to make it Indonesia! This was the country where I met most of these awesome people, but that’s not the reason for my bias, the country itself is unbeatable in terms of variety of experiences, interesting cultures, wonderful people and affordability!
Bali is probably the most well-known Indonesian island destination for South Africans, most making their way there for the surf… and it’s a great starting point for anyone looking to explore this nation of islands.
I loved Bali for it’s beautiful natural scenery and unique Hindu culture. I especially loved exploring Uluwatu Temple and doing a cooking course in a traditional Balinese home… including ploughing a rice paddy! Unfortunately, I didn’t make my way to Ubud, but from what I’ve heard it’s worth a visit as is the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Water Temple! And if you’re a fan of water sports you’ll be spoilt for choice – the surfing and diving is some of the best in the world.
Flights to Bali start from R9 500 and once you’re there the rate of exchange is fairly favourable with R1 = 1000 Indonesian rupiah.
Thanks so much to all these wonderful travel blogging friends for your contributions. So pleased you were all so keen to take part!
I hope to meet up with all of you somewhere in the world again!