The Cheapest Places I Have Visited

One of the questions I’m always asked, in addition to “what country has the best food?” is “where is the cheapest place to travel?”

When you travel places where your money goes farther, you can stay longer and do more. It’s a lot more fun to marvel over how little you are spending than to spend your time worrying about every penny.

In a strange coincidence, some of the cheapest places I’ve visited have also been some of my very favorite spots. Here are a handful:

Koh Lanta, Thailand

South East Asia is known as a cheap backpacker haven, and it is definitely less expensive than many places in the world. However prices have risen quite a bit in the more touristy areas, particularly in Thailand, and you can find yourself paying western prices or even more in the peak season. There are still some less pricey places though, you just have to seek them out. In addition to being my favorite island in Thailand, Koh Lanta was the cheapest we visited.

Koh Lanta hasn’t been taken over by commercialism as much as other islands on the Andaman Coast. In the middle of peak season we were able to secure a private bungalow at beachside “resort” for $15 a night. At a delicious neighboring restaurant we paid $7 for a meal for two. There are a lot of things to do on the island but we spent most of our time drinking cocktails and watching absolutely amazing sunsets.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Vietnam was light years cheaper than the rest of South East Asia. Everything from accomodation to food was not only inexpensive but fantastic value. This was true everywhere from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, but the cheapest place we stayed was probably the beautiful town of Hoi An.

Even though Hoi An is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Vietnam, with it’s UNESCO old town and cheap tailors, it’s still incredibly cheap. Within half an hour of arriving we found a cheap place to stay. It was a huge room with free wifi for only $12. We spent our days visiting tailors and enjoying the amazing and cheap food (a meal for two was around $5).

The best value in Hoi An though? The beer. Delicious fresh beer for 12 cents a cup. Man, I miss that beer.

Budapest, Hungary

Compared to the other places on this list Budapest is somewhat pricey, but really it’s all relative. In Europe, where a cup of coffee can cost you 6 euros, Budapest is a pretty great deal. It’s also one of the prettiest and most elegant cities I’ve been to. It’s much nicer and less expensive than it’s sister city Prague.

In Budapest you can score a bed in a pretty decent hostel for $20 (again… it’s relative). You can go out and enjoy a traditional meal and a bottle of hungarian wine for $10. For an even cheaper experience hit up one of the many bakeries or eat lunch in the market.

Mostar, Bosnia

If you really want a deal in Europe though you need to go east. The prices in countries like Bosnia, Romania and Albania are extremely cheap as they haven’t yet been discovered by tourists to the extent of Western and Central Europe.

Mostar was a really beautiful and heartbreaking place. It’s really interesting to visit and it doesn’t cost too much. Here you can get a private room with a tv for $20-$30 and eat a big meal for very little. The best value was the day long tour of the surrounding areas offered at Majda’s Hostel. For 10 Euros (might be slightly more now), you get to see basically all of the highlights of Herzegovinia.

Xi’an, China

It doesn’t get any cheaper than China. For a budget backpacker cities like Beijing and Shanghai are cheap, but every other city is just dirt, dirt cheap. Hostel rooms will run you maybe $3-5 (and the hostels in China are some of the nicest I’ve seen).

Xi’an, where I spent three months this past spring, is one of the cheapest of the cheap. It’s one of the oldest cities in China (and the world) with a rich cultural past, but most travelers breeze in to see the Terracotta Warriors and then leave, making it still mostly local and inexpensive. Food is the best deal- a generous and delicious meal for two can come in at $4 or less.


Of course there is a risk to traveling cheap. Even though things cost barely anything you find yourself wanting to spend less and less money. You get paranoid about being ripped off. Before you know it you find yourself in a 15 minute argument with a bike rental guy over the equivalent of $1.

I know as soon as I hit publish someone is going to chime in telling me I paid WAY too much in the cities I went to. Frankly, I’m not really interested in that kind of pissing contest. There’s always someone getting stuff cheaper than you and I don’t think spending the least amount of money is really the goal. It’s conserving your resources so that you can travel longer and deeper.

What’s the cheapest place you’ve visited?

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41 thoughts on “The Cheapest Places I Have Visited”

  1. cambodia is ridiculously cheap. we paid 15 for a 2-bed room in a really nice motel in siem reap. ate amazing meals for 3-5 bucks. and sat and drank ice cold beers all day for 50 cents.

  2. Budapest, right on the money! (No pun intended.) A friend and I loved Hungary, and the best–and CHEAPEST–meal we ate was at the cafeteria of a bank! My Hungarian friend took us, and we were shocked at how little we paid and how much food we got.

  3. I went to Mostar last year and had one of the best dinners of my life, with a big bottle of wine for around $9. I agree with your description too. Nice post!

  4. Hi Steph,
    Where did you stay in Koh Lanta? I want to spend a few weeks there with my husband & our 1.5 year old daughter this January. I’ve been to Koh Phagnan many times (by myself) and know that accommodations are always cheaper when you look in person…but arriving with a toddler in tow & wandering around looking for a clean & cheap room doesn’t seem like a fun way to start our first family vacation 😉

    1. We stayed at a place called the Blue Andaman Resort- we actually found it via a tout on the boat but it turned out to be nice enough. Lots of kids there!

  5. This was really fun to read. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I read in the comments someone mentioning Bangladesh as cheap… just got home from there a few days ago. Yes, it was cheap… $13 for a double room at the beach during the holidays, but it’s all relative when you consider that we also got bed bugs out of the deal! 🙁

  6. Awesome list. I’m planning my trip and Koh Lanta and Hoi An are definetly on my list now!
    I have always wanted to go to Budapest but kept the idea on the backburner because I thought it would be to expensive..I’m glad I was wrong!

  7. Great post !
    I have been to many places but only thanks to my parents, so that doesn’t really count but among the fex places I have been by myself, I must say that Taipei (suburbs), Taiwan was really very cheap. Budapest also was, you’re right !
    Thanks for the post as always !

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