These days, it’s hard to ignore all of your friend’s Instagram photos from far-flung destinations. Who wouldn’t want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Buckingham Palace? The problem is, all of these places are exceedingly expensive to visit.
If you’re looking for cheap vacation ideas, there are many lists out there to look at. Some self-made, some that are well researched. But there’s only one comprehensive, qualitative, and well-researched list to follow, The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017.
Published by the World Economic Forum, the report gives an overall score for each country and individual category score on virtues like tourism prioritization, health and hygiene, and safety and security.
We took a look at their category on price competitiveness, filtering out for countries which the US State Department has issued a level 4 “Do Not Travel” or level 3 “Reconsider Travel” (for terrorism only) travel advisory. We also removed countries that have overly restrictive or discriminatory entry-exit visa requirements.
Here is our ultimate list of the 17 cheapest places to travel in the world.
The pyramids are the first thing that come to mind for most Americans when they think of Egypt. But the country is so much more than that. From Cairo to Giza, Luxor to Alexandria, Egypt possesses tons of cultural treasures from centuries past.
Some ideas to ponder include: sailing the Nile River on a cruise, checking out the culture in modern day Cairo, taking a camel ride or exploring the great pyramids in Giza.
In fact, there are numerous ruins to explore, like the Abu Simbel Temple Complex, the Temple of Karnak, and the Temple of Hathor at Dendera; all top-rated attractions on TripAdvisor.
Tourism is a leading source of income for Egypt and one that is growing substantially as well. In 2017, 8 million tourists visited Egypt. That’s up 2.74 million from the year prior, according to The Telegraph.
All those tourists mean lots of competition for your money. You can expect to spend $10-$30 for a reasonable hotel room, with a sit-down dinner for two averaging approximately $6, says Lonely Planet.
One place that you may not be able to save much money is on airfare. A typical air ticket costs $1,000 or more round trip from the US to Cairo.
One thing to keep in mind, Egypt has some areas that the US State Department recommends avoiding. Including the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert, due to terrorism. You should also avoid the border zones due to military action.
If you’re enticed by the thought of visiting a historically significant country, like Egypt, pack your bags.
Malaysia sits at an interesting tourism crossroads in southeast Asia. It was the ninth most visited country in the world in 2010, according to the UNWTO. But it’s also a country which caters to tourists mostly hailing from other Asian countries.
You may recognize their iconic sights, like the Petronas Twin Towers, Batu Caves, and Malacca City. The latter, in particular, holds a lot of history and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The port city that went through a lot of changes throughout history, including various occupations. International traders brought their cultural influences from around the world and made Malacca City what it is today.
It’s just one of many stories within Malaysia. A country with endless places to explore that traverse historical to modern times.
If visiting Malaysia is on your list, it’s pretty easy to get there. Various airlines will take you there with a one-stop connection for $1,200-$2,000 round trip.
According to Lonely Planet, you can expect to spend $25 to $100 a night for a mid-range hotel, with a two course meal costing about $10.
If you’re interested in exploring more of Africa, why not visit the largest country on the continent? Like the previous three countries on the list, Algeria is home to a myriad of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the bustling city of Algiers.
Originally part of the Ottoman Empire, Algiers is chalk full of long standing churches, cathedrals, historical sites, and architecturally varied buildings.
Visitors rank the Basilique Notre-Dame d’Afrique, Martyrs’ Memorial, and the Jardin d’Essai du Hamma botanical gardens as some of the highest rated places to visit, according to TripAdvisor and Google.
The one hitch is that you’ll go through a bear of a time trying to get a visa to Algeria. As a tourist, you’ll always need to have an invitation from a travel agent, tour operator or a local contact, according to Lonely Planet.
There’s a myriad of other requirements to note. But remember that you cannot get a visa on arrival. So, this is one destination in which you want to plan ahead.
Once you’re there, Lonely Planet also advises that you budget $75-$120 a day for hotels, meals, and transportation.
Tip: Use our Vacation Budget Form to plan for your vacation!
Just don’t forget to try a kabab and mint tea while you’re there!
Located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is an archipelago of well over 10,000 islands and is the 4th most populous country in the world.
You can hear over three dozen languages spoken across 300 different ethnic groups. In fact, the over 87% of Indonesians identify as Muslim, meaning that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.
Culture and nature take center stage here. With the beautiful beaches of Bali, rocky volcanic landscapes, and Islamic and colonial heritage, you’ll never run out of cool things to see or learn about.
Visiting Indonesia is so much more than just seeing Jakarta and Bali. But you’ll at least want to hit Jakarta first, as it’s the major transit point for flights to and from Indonesia.
Multiple one-stop flights abound from the US, priced between $1,000-$1,200 round trip. Once in Indonesia, it’s super easy to get around domestically using one of the cheap, low cost air carriers.
Lonely Planet says this country is a steal to visit. Budget travelers should anticipate spending about $36 a day on a room, meals, and transportation. Average travelers could spend that on the low end of the range but should anticipate budgeting $144 a day on the high end of the range.
Although the Indonesian government offers a myriad of ways to obtain a visa, its restrictions can be byzantine. Be sure to read up on the latest requirements before going.
Either way, Lonely Planet says that you can spend a lot of time exploring this beautiful country. Just remember your visa expiration date when you go for a visit!
Sandwiched between India and Tibet, Bhutan is not a country that world travelers often think of visiting. But if you skip it, you’re sure to miss out on what CNN calls “the true meaning of cultural authenticity.”
Living in isolation until just a few decades ago, Bhutan is situated on the Silk Road. It owes its cultural identity to its main religion, Buddhism. The country also has stunning natural beauty, ranging from its lush plains to its tallest mountains. Its Himalayan peaks can reach in excess of 23,000 feet.
Given its past isolation, the country is widely considered one of the least developed countries in Asia. Internet and television was introduced in 1999 and the government actively looks to curb erosion of Bhutanese culture by outside influences.
For most visitors, the only way to visit the country is to book a travel package through an authorized travel agent. That’s because the Tourism Council of Bhutan sets a minimum daily tariff for visitors (between $200-$250 a day) and requires that you purchase a tour package.
However, the all-inclusive nature of these packages could end up being a good value for travelers compared to piecemealing their travel arrangements when visiting other countries.
Kazakhstan is another country on our list located on the Silk Road. Formerly a member of the USSR, it is the ninth largest country in the world by area and the largest landlocked country in the world. Its proximity to Asia, Europe, and Russia lends itself to a diverse ethnic population.
Almaty and Astana are its biggest cities, with the latter being the capital city. Astana is a gleaming, modern, well-kept city with futuristic architecture. It’s most remarkable building is the 150-meter-tall Khan Shatyr, which houses an indoor beach on its top floor.
Getting to this young country is surprisingly easy with its highly rated national airline, Air Astana. Although you cannot fly directly to Kazakhstan from the United States, one stop connections are easy for $1,500 to $2,000 round trip. US citizens can travel visa free for up to 30 days.
This north African country is home to an eclectic mix of cities and sights. From its metropolitan capital of Tunis to the ancient ruins of Carthage, there’s much to see in this country.
Tunisia has a rich history, having control of the land pass from the Arabs, to the Ottoman empire, to the Spanish, and the French. The country declared its independence in 1956. Today, visitors can view the country’s past at sights like the Bardo Museum and the Medina of Tunis, the latter being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Flying to Tunis will set you back $1,200 to $1,800, with one to two stops along the way. You’ll most likely make a stop in Europe before getting there.
Lonely Planet suggests that you budget $25-75 a day for meals, lodging, and transportation.
Incredible India, as it’s Ministry of Tourism’s slogan proclaims, is a vast country. So big, in fact, that it is the seventh largest country by area and has the second largest population in the world.
Each state within India has an amazing number of things to see and do. Including delectable food, vibrant culture, and centuries old sights. Although the Taj Mahal is one of the country’s most iconic sights, you won’t want to miss its other landmarks and religious sites.
Such as the Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, Gateway of India in Mumbai, and the Golden Temple in Amrisar.
Getting to India is a cinch, as there are plenty of non-stop and one-stop options from the US to choose from ($700 to $1,200 round trip). Once there, a plethora of low fare domestic airlines will take you where you need to go.
A budget of $44 to $133 for meals, lodging, and transportation should suffice, says Lonely Planet.
Qatar is a country where modern life takes stage front and center. From daring new high-rise buildings to beautiful coast side views on the Arabian Peninsula, this country has benefited greatly from decades of revenue from natural gas and oil reserve.
Like many of the countries in the region, Qatar passed under the control of Bahraini and Saudi rule, the Ottoman empire, and British rule, until its independence in 1971.
Today, its capital city of Doha is a major cosmopolitan city. From its seven-kilometer waterfront to its traditional market, there’s much to see and do. Get outside of Doha and you can also see Al Zubarah Fort, a centuries old desert settlement and UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the 40-meter-deep Dahl Al Misfir Cave.
Getting to Qatar is easy, thanks it’s world class flag carrier, Qatar Airways. Flights from the US range from $850 to $1,850 round trip, depending on time of year.
The one area to pay attention to when you visit is your budget. Lonely Planet says a visit to Qatar will set you back a little bit more than the other destinations no our list. For food, lodging, and transportation, you should expect to pay $150-$250 a day.
Botswana is a landlocked African country most well-known by travelers for it’s incredible and numerous wildlife. If there’s one thing to do here, it’s a safari.
The country has benefited greatly over the years from diamond mining and tourism. Focused on conservation, the country looks to offer high priced packages to reduce the overall number of tourists that visit. However, there are still many options for budget minded travelers.
Volunteer for service projects can be one way that to save a lot of money while traveling here. During your off time, you could visit the Okavango Delta or other game parks. Or if wildlife viewing isn’t your thing, you won’t want to miss Tsodilo Hills. It’s home to the largest rock art collection on the continent.
Traveling to Botswana can be a trek. It’s a two or three stop journey from the US, with flights costing between $1,000-$3,000 round trip, depending on the time of year. The journey can take a full 24 hours or more.
Once there, you should budget between $75 to $150 a day for food, transportation, and lodging, according to Lonely Planet.
11. Laos (Or Lao PDR)
You may hear the country of Laos mentioned often in Southeast Asian politics, but many Americans may not think of it as a hot Asian tourism destination.
The landlocked country in Asia is home to wildlife, beautiful nature, and incredible cuisine. Known long ago as the Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol, it was then known as the center of trade for the region.
After a stint under French and Japanese control long ago, it is now an independent nation focused on building industry and its economy.
Tourism is playing an increasing role in that goal, with somewhere around 4 million people visiting the country each year. Visitors are treated with the sight of elephants at the Elephant Conservation center and natural wonders at Kuang Si Falls and Ban Sop Houn.
Visiting Laos will set you back just $700 to $1,200 round trip from the US, with one and two stop connections.
According to Lonely Planet, while you’re in Laos, you should expect to spend $50 to $150 a day for food, lodging, and transportation.
Home to a large community of nomads, Mongolia is a wonderland of vast landscapes and cultures for visitors to learn about. Sandwiched between Russia and China, it’s considered the most sparsely populated fully sovereign country in the world. Yet, it’s highly ranked by both Travel + Leisure and National Geographic magazines as a place you can’t miss visiting.
This country is home to many curious opposites. Luxury cars everywhere juxtaposed against a baron landscape. A bustling modern metropolis rising out of nothingness. “Like Lower Manhattan surrounded by South Dakota,” said Pico Iyer of Travel + Leisure magazine.
Whether it’s the Gobi Desert or other natural wonders that attract you, getting to Mongolia is tough. Expect to spend over 24 hours in the air with two to three stops along the way. However, flight prices will only set you back $800 to $1,200 round trip.
When you get there, expect to spend $50 to $140 a day on food, lodging, and transportation, according to Lonely Planet.
Rated one of the top 10 destinations in South America by TripAdvisor, Guatemala is country rich with history, multiculturalism, and art. It’s home to many Mayan archaeological sites, natural beauty, and historical cityscapes.
Whether it’s visiting the popular Tikal National Park, hiking Acatenango Volcano, or taking in the sights at Lake Atitlan, you can easily spend most of your vacation exploring the great outdoors. But cities like Guatemala City and Antigua are also home to museums that feature the country’s rich art, textile, and cultural history.
Getting to Guatamala is pretty easy, with non-stop and one stop flights in the $400 range round trip. Once you’re there, expect to spend $53-$134 a day in meals, lodging, and transportation, according to Lonely Planet.
Just be forewarned that the US State Department has issued a Level 3 “Reconsider Travel” advisory for the country. They warn of rampant crime.
A popular Asian tourist destination for visitors from the US, Thailand has much to offer with its vibrant culture, attractive beaches, and wonderful food. In fact, over a million Americans visited Thailand in 2017.
Whether you visit the capital of Bangkok, diving in Phuket, or laying on the beach in Ko Samui, you can really create any experience you want in Thailand. For serious foodies, Thailand’s extensive street food scene cannot be missed. And if you’re into viewing wildlife, the quintessential way to experience Thailand is through its well-known elephant trekking.
(A bonus tip, if you happen to arrive in Thailand during the Thai New Year, don’t forget to check out Chang Mai’s Songkran festival.)
Getting to Thailand is easy. It’s a one stop flight from the US, setting you back between $600 and $1,200 round trip. Once you’re in Thailand, expect to plunk down $31 to $124 a day for meals, lodging, and transportation, according to Lonely Planet.
When most travelers imagine what Nepal is like, a mental image of hiking in the Himalayas and Mt. Everest most probably pops up. But Nepal is so much more. With its rich Buddhist and Hindu heritage, charming villages, and wildlife to boot.
The capital city of Katmandu dates back to at least 185 AD and currently hosts numerous and cultural festivals throughout the year. And although a major earthquake devastated historical portions of Katmandu in 2015, the city is still ranked as one of the top-rated destinations for travelers in the world, according to TripAdvisor.
Getting to Katmandu or Nepal will set you back $850 to $1,300 round trip, with a 19 to 25 hour one-stop journey to get there. Lonely Planet says to expect to spend $50 to $150 a day for meals, lodging, and transportation.
16. Sri Lanka
The south Asian country of Sri Lanka is located off the coast of India. It’s history dates back at least 125,000 years, with a rich cultural heritage rooted in Buddhism. Controlled by the British until 1948, tourism in modern day Sri Lanka is quickly growing thanks to its beaches, wildlife, and natural scenery.
One “can’t miss” sight is the Sigiriya, an ancient stone fortress that is considered by some to be the eighth wonder of the world. Travelers also shouldn’t miss out on seeing the awe inspiring national parks and Sri Lanka’s capital city of Colombo.
Getting to Sri Lanka will set you back about $1,000 to $1,300 round trip with at least one stop on the 24-hour long journey. When you arrive in Colombo, you should expect to budget $37 to $125 a day for lodging, food, and transportation, according to Lonely Planet.
An island located in the Persian Gulf, the Kingdom of Bahrain was the ancient site of the Dilmun civilization. Historically known for its fisheries, Bahrain is now known for its banking and tourism industries.
Manama, its capital city, is a classic example of modern times meets rich history. Within the same day, you can visit the Al-Fatih mosque, the Bahrain International Circuit for auto racing, and check out the camels at the Royal Camel Farm.
Reaching Bahrain takes about 18-20 hours with one stop from the US and can set you back between $1,000 to $1,600 round trip. Expect to shell out $140 to $200 a day for lodging, transportation, and meals, according to Lonely Planet.
Which of these is on the top of your list for your next trip?
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