If you’ve thought about visiting Mexico, now is the time! While you could get just 16 pesos to the dollar in 2015, that’s now risen to 22 pesos. (It’s a similar story against the euro.)
Backpackers will find it easy to travel in Mexico on a budget of under $25 a day. Dorm beds are as little as $7 a night in many places, while seemingly every street corner has a little cart selling delicious tacos, tamales or tortas for what is basically spare change (if you’re from a high-income country).
If you’re not a backpacker but simply looking for good value on a mid-range budget, then Mexico is equally a great choice. Popular beach resort destinations like Cancun and Cabo get very pricey, but you can make your money go further in lower-key beach towns such as Tulum, Puerto Escondido, Zihuatenejo, and Mazatlan.
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Sibenik in Croatia; a cheaper place than Split or Zadar
The quaint Croatian town of Šibenik is cheaper (and less crowded) than Split or Zadar
2. The Balkans
I’m shamelessly lumping together a number of countries here, but the Balkan region as a whole really needs to be mentioned. If you’re on a budget, don’t stay for too long on the increasingly jetsettey Croatian coast, as places like Dubrovnik can get murderously expensive especially in the July/August high season. For true bargain adventures, be sure to head into Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, or Montenegro.
(Want to see Croatian highlights on the cheap? Many budget travellers now stay in Trebinje in Bosnia and take day-trips to the old city of Dubrovnik.)
And then there is Albania. It may be hardly developed and the roads are in a terrible state of neglect, but it takes the prize of being the cheapest country to visit in Europe, with a beautiful Adriatic coastline to boot.
Tonsai beach in Krabi
Tonsai beach, Krabi, Thailand (image credit)
Popular? Very. But Thailand can still be one of the cheapest countries to travel.
Of course, not everywhere is cheap. Koh Samui and Phuket are heavy on luxury resorts, Ao Nang and Railey Beach are creeping up the price range (budget travellers have moved to Ton Sai beach), and Koh Phi Phi has arguably jumped the shark (try Koh Lanta or Koh Chang).
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But the further away you get from the most commercialised beaches, the better it gets. Head all the way north to the Chiang Mai region and you’ll be in budget travel heaven. Here amid the rice fields, Buddhist temples and hill tribes you can find some of the best-value accommodation anywhere—whether you’re looking for a backpacker bed (from $5) or a comfy hotel with swimming pool (from $30).
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Having spent the last few months in Portugal, I’m going to say it’s one of the best under-the-radar bargain destinations in Europe.
Lisbon is blissfully untouched by the stag dos and lads’ holidays that have blighted Prague or Barcelona, instead appealing squarely to travel romantics with its gorgeous river views and vintage trams. And with glamorous beaches in the Algarve, charming cities like Coimbra, Aveiro, and Porto, and a lovely vineyard-clad countryside, you wouldn’t soon get bored in Portugal. Prices are very reasonable (the 60 eurocent coffee is not a myth).
Don’t miss my city guides to Lisbon and Porto.
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Capetown in South Africa, one of the top budget destinations of 2017
Camps Bay, Capetown, South Africa (photo credit)
5. South Africa
Even if it isn’t this list’s cheapest country in absolute terms, South Africa will give you excellent value for money in 2017. Compared to 2012, you can get almost double the amount of South African rand against many Western currencies.
Day-to-day travel costs such as lodging and food are surprisingly low for a developed country. You’ll probably end up spending on a dazzling menu of adventure activities instead, which includes safaris, canopy tours, shark diving, caving and, hey, even ostrich riding (yep!).
Getting there will be your initial challenge, as for many travelers it’ll be a long haul, but airlines based in Doha, Abu Dhabi or Dubai regularly have fantastic deals on flights between South Africa and Europe or North America. I recently found a return from Europe (Madrid, in my case) for just 600 Euro. That’s not bad for going half-way around the world and getting a chance to spot the ‘big five’!