Our vacation time is precious, so it is only natural that we should want to get plenty of bang for our buck whenever we travel. Of course, popular travel destinations can charge what they like for hotel rooms, meals, and tourist attractions, as they know there will always be people willing to pay.
Astoundingly, the average American family spends $1,145 per person on their annual vacation, and that soon adds up if you want to take your wife and kids with you! With costs like that, it is hardly surprising that less than half of Americans with paid vacation use all their holiday days, with vacations running into thousands of dollars, they are simply beyond the reach of many ordinary families.
If you are willing to head off the beaten track, however, then there are some holiday bargains to be found, with the added bonus that you won’t have to battle with the large crowds that you get at the more typical holiday resorts around the world.
Check out the list below of travel destinations where you can live like a King for just a few dollars a day, and pick out which one you want to visit first.
If you want to get a taste of the exotic for just a few dollars a day, then look no further than Cambodia. Home to the iconic Angkor Wat temple complex ($20 to visit–expensive for Cambodia but a bargain considering the memories you’ll take home) rooms in guest houses in this Southeast Asian country can cost as little as $5 per night. That's a steal! Pick up street food or buy from the local supermarkets and you can eat for as little as $1 per day, while transport too is cheap if you want to travel around the country. Don’t expect too much luxury on the local buses, though.
Head to India if you want to cram in as much sightseeing as much as possible for only a few dollars a day. Third class train tickets are dirt cheap, and even second and first class tickets will seem like a total bargain to Westerners. Best of all, your train ticket includes your meals on long journeys. If money is tight, no problem, stay in hostels rather than hotels, which can cost about $2 per night compared to about $10 for a basic hotel room (which is still very cheap). Look out for “thalis” at restaurants; these are large round plates which come with several different dishes–a great way to make your money go further.
Mexico may not seem like a bargain holiday destination to most people, but if you stay away from the resort hotels at popular destinations like Cancun, then you can enjoy this fascinating country’s art and history–as well as spending some time relaxing on the gorgeous beaches–for just a few dollars a day. If you’re willing to bed down in somewhere a bit more basic, then you can secure a place in a dorm room for less than $10 per night, while a 500-km bus trip will cost you only around 20 dollars—the equivalent of the journey from Mexico City to Tampico on the Gulf Coast.
It may be decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain, but many of the former Eastern European countries haven’t yet developed their tourist industries and can be a great place to find a vacation bargain as a result. Bulgaria is ideal for sun worshipers and outdoorsy types, while capital city Sofia boasts architecture from the Romans, the Ottoman Empire, and of course, the Soviet era. The best part? Hotel rooms start at just $15 per night, public transport around and between cities is very cheap, and you can get a simple but delicious (and very satisfying) meal for as little as $3.
Now, while it is true that some of the most expensive hotels and restaurants are to be found in the UK’s capital city, the economic effect of Brexit now means that travelers from the US and Europe will see their dollars and euros go a lot further! If you have your heart set on seeing Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, visiting the National Gallery, or walking down swinging Carnaby Street, then make sure you look for a hostel with dorm rooms outside of the city center where you can pay just about $25 per night. Best of all, many of the city’s most famous museums are absolutely free.
10 South Africa
Getting to South Africa might not be cheap, but once you arrive to the place, there are lots of ways you can save money on a vacation of a lifetime. Spend time hiking along the stunning coastline and head to the less touristy safari spots like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi where you can see white rhino and elephants without paying through the nose. Make the most of exploring this vast country by investing in a 200-dollar two-week bus pass–which allows for unlimited travel–while there are plenty of places outside of the main cities where you can get a filling meal for less than $5.
The name Vietnam still has some unpleasant connotations for US travelers, but this jewel of Southeast Asia is a far cry from the Communist stronghold of the 1970’s. You can experience some of the most breathtaking sceneries in the world, and it will cost you just a few dollars a day for the privilege. A private room in a budget hotel will set you back just about $10, while hostels with shared sleeping areas are even cheaper, and you can fill up on cheap noodle dishes for less than a dollar in restaurants and at stalls on the street. Who doesn't love noodles?
Hiking in Nepal and the foothills of the Himalayas is an experience that no traveler will ever forget, and one that won’t break the bank, even taking into consideration the cost of hiring guides to ensure that you don’t get lost or injured (the hospital bills would cost more!). You should expect to pay between $15 and $25 per day for an experienced guide. Any cheaper and you should be asking questions about their expertise. Accommodation costs just a few dollars per night or you can even take your own camping equipment along on the hike and enjoy knowing that you have a free bed for the night.
The colorful and exotic country of Morocco is the next destination on our list of bargain vacation destinations. The North African country may be just a few miles from Europe across the Mediterranean, but it feels a world away from the cosmopolitan and expensive cities of France and Spain. If you are willing to stay in a basic hotel with a shared bathroom, then you can expect to pay as little as $5 per night, while a main course of the local spicy cuisine is just $3. Travel is cheap too, with a four-hour bus journey costing around $6.
If you have an adventurous spirit, then Uruguay in South America could be an option for your bargain basement vacation. Much cheaper than the more conventional South American destinations of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is still home to fantastic beaches and capital Montevideo has a fascinating colonial history. You can get great locally-farmed steaks in shops for just a couple of dollars or in restaurants for about $5, while a budget hotel room can cost as little as $12 per night. If you’re willing to rough it and share a dorm room with fellow travelers, then you can save even more money.
If you want to stay in the US for a bargain staycation, then stay away from the east and west coasts and try somewhere off the beaten track, such as rural Michigan. Enjoy the lush greenery, the lakeside villages, or take a day trip to Chicago—if you fancy blowing your budget. Shop around and you can find rooms in country guest houses for as little as $50—extortionate compared to Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe, but cheap for the US. There are always cheap diners in the small Midwest towns where you can get a bargain; fill up on the huge breakfasts and take advantage of the free coffee refills!
It can often be difficult to track down a bargain when it comes to European city break. Porto is one city which has managed to avoid becoming overrun with tourists and which has therefore managed to keep its costs down! The colorful city is a great place to experience local art, culture, and of course, the famous Port wine. Many of the wine cellars and caves offer free tastings in the hope that you will buy bottles of their wine to take home and enjoy, while you can find a cheap and delicious meal to soak up all that alcohol for as little as $10.
Head to Namibia if you’re looking for an even cheaper African adventure than you might find in neighboring South Africa. Choose a camping safari or hiking holiday and you can save a fortune on accommodation costs, although remember that you are expected to pay your guides and camp staff a tip of around $10 per day on top of the vacation costs itself. There are plenty of free treats to be enjoyed in Namibia too, especially at night when the clear skies allow you to stargaze and especially while you are out on safari, away from the light pollution of the major towns and cities.
You might feel a little guilty about taking advantage of the poor economic situation in Greece to enjoy a cheaper holiday, but after spending some time on the idyllic beaches, enjoying the warm welcome from the locals, that guilt will soon fade away. Find yourself a cheap dorm room for $12 or a self-catering apartment for about the same price—that has the additional advantage of allowing you to cook your own meals. Or you can always get a cheap dinner at one of the street stalls or bars for less than $10, including a cold beer or even a shot of the local tipple, Ouzo.
Formerly part of the USSR, Ukraine is now starting to rebuild its identity and its tourist industry; now is the perfect time to travel, before travelers from around the world start to discover this country’s hidden charms. Join the Kyiv locals in lively city centre bars and you can enjoy a glass of beer for less than $1 while dinner for two can come in at under $20 if you shop around. Make sure you check out Kyiv’s top attraction, the Monastery of the Caves, although you’ll need to set aside a couple of dollars for your entry fee.