15 Top Cheapest Countries to Visit
The splendor of expensive destinations has its appeal, but let's face it – the more expensive a place is, the more you have to adjust the length of your trip and your activities there to stretch your dollar.
There's something to be said for traveling to cheap countries, where an entire meal at a local restaurant costs the same as a movie ticket back home – or where you can sleep at a nice hotel for what would only get you a hostel bed in other places.
Check out our list of some of the cheaper countries in different destinations around the world and why you should consider going there.
1. Cheapest Scandinavian Country: Denmark
Scandinavian countries are notorious for being the most expensive destinations in Europe – but if you have your heart set on visiting Northern Europe, there are ways to do it right and without spending a fortune.
Of all the Scandinavian countries, Denmark is the cheapest – though still quite expensive when compared to other areas of Europe. To truly save money on this trip, you'll have to skip the busy summer season, and probably also spring, as the pleasantly warm weather means lots of tourists and higher prices. Flights and accommodation prices, however, are as much as 40 percent cheaper between September and November, right after the summer crowds have gone home but before the windy, cold weather arrives.
Denmark also offers a great way to save money on food: bakeries. Forget paying for expensive meals at your hotel or a touristy restaurant and instead walk into a neighborhood bakery away from the central area. Bakeries offer a great cheap option for breakfast: Wienerbrød or Danish pastries – fluffy, flaky pastries filled with jams or custard cream.
Most bakeries also sell open-faced sandwiches known as Smørrebrød, which are popular lunch options for the locals. Open-faced sandwiches are basically one slice of rye or pumpernickel bread covered with a number of toppings – marinated herring is a popular choice, but you can opt for lighter options such as cheese, sliced cucumbers, or pickled red cabbage, boiled eggs, and some type of mayo or creamy paste.
In addition, many of Denmark's most famous attractions are either free or very cheap to visit. Watch the changing of the guard ceremony at Amalienborg castle, visit Hans Christian Andersen's grave at Assistens Cemetery, or walk the gardens of Rosenberg Castle.
The second-oldest operating amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens, charges a flat entrance fee, but you'll have access to all kinds of rides and entertainment areas for free once you're inside.
2. Cheapest Eastern European Country to Visit: Bulgaria
For cheap prices in Europe, very few places beat Bulgaria, an unassuming Eastern country that remains very much off the beaten track. In summer, tourists from neighboring countries arrive in Bulgaria to enjoy the Black Sea for incredibly low prices – but the rest of the year, the country is quiet. That means no big crowds, no noise, and no crazy high prices for accommodation, food, and entry to attractions.
In fact, Bulgaria's most interesting destinations won't cost you a penny. Sofia, the country's capital, is an old city where you can see the Turk and Byzantine influence – but the real charm of the country can't be truly discovered until you step into the countryside. Here, ancient little villages sit next to imposing castles atop mountains. In Bulgaria, you can get an all-day ski lift ticket for a tenth of what you would pay anywhere else in Europe, and the hiking trails will take you up mountains as high as the Alps for free.
To make the trip even cheaper, skip the summer months, when the beaches are crowded and hotels raise their prices to take advantage of the short tourist season. Late spring and early fall are great times to visit instead, especially if you're spending time outdoors – the weather is nice, the tourists are gone (or haven't arrived yet), and prices are more than affordable.
If you're a winter person, consider Bansko or Razlog, two great ski resort areas, where you can enjoy the snow on a very small budget.
3. Cheapest Southeast Asian Country to Visit: Cambodia
Cambodia is best known for being home to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Even this world-renowned destination is incredibly affordable to visit: you can just hop on a tuk-tuk (open motorcycle taxi) to reach your destination, buy a temple ticket at the entrance of the first temple, and explore until your heart's content for just pennies – when you're ready to move on, your tuk-tuk driver will take you to the next temple and wait for you. Hiring a tuk-tuk for the entire day will cost you the equivalent of a 15-minute taxi ride in NYC.
But Cambodia has much more to offer than stunning ancient temples. The capital, Phnom Penh, is filled with things to do, including beautiful French Colonial architecture, cheap French bakeries (perfect to pick up breakfast or snacks on the go), and lots of temples that are free to visit.
For the price of a Starbucks coffee, you can have a meal at a nice restaurant in Cambodia and a modern, comfortable room at a nice hotel will likely be cheaper than a shared hostel room in Europe. Don't try to save money by drinking tap water, though – this is a no-no in Cambodia.
For even bigger savings, arrive outside of the cool dry season, which runs from November to February. This is high tourist season and the months when prices go up and the crowds get bigger. At any other time, you'll find incredible deals everywhere you look.
4. Cheapest Country in Asia: Nepal
Unless you're planning a full guided trek up Mount Everest – which is definitely not a cheap venture – Nepal is incredibly cheap. Even better, you can still enjoy plenty of trekking and even climbing for pennies. Even massive trekking trips, such as an 11-day hike in Langtang Valley, will only set you back a few hundred dollars, a quarter of what a trek to Everest Base Camp would cost.
Nepal is hard to visit in the low season, as the months between mid-June and mid-September mean lots of rains, potential flooding, and sometimes dangerous landslides that block trails and make hiking impossible. In addition, the weather is misty and cloudy during these months, which means you often get poor visibility and no mountain views.
If you're not heading here for climbing, winter (which lasts from mid-December to mid-February) can be a pleasant time to visit, as temperatures often stay around 10 degrees Celsius in the city. Trekking can be tricky in winter because of unexpected winter storms and snow. March to May and September to November are the best months to visit – you'll get some of the best weather and prices that are still stunningly low.
Local affordable guided treks do exist, but double-check that they offer safe trips —– you'll get cheaper prices if you sign up for a trek once you arrive rather than booking in advance. If you're not heading anywhere too technical, you can always explore on your own and save even more money.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nepal
5. Cheapest Northern African Country to Visit: Morocco
Morocco is one of those countries that can cost you a lot of money or be incredibly cheap, depending on the choices you make. For example, visiting Morocco's famous Marrakesh's bazaar can get pricey – especially if you're after handwoven rugs or painted glass – but if you learn to haggle like your life depends on it, you'll walk away with some budget treasures.
Inter-city first-class train rides in Morocco will cost you about the same as you would pay for a metro ride in the West. Even better, you don't need to pay for a guide at any of Morocco's major attractions – such as the royal Saadien's Tombs or the 12th-century Menara Gardens – as they're either easy to discover on your own, or an English-speaking guide is included in the price of the ticket.
For cheap eating, nothing beats the local specialties, such as kaab el ghzal, a crescent-shaped cookie stuffed with almond paste (great as a quick snack), the slow-cooked Moroccan stew tagine, or couscous served in many different forms. Sitting down at a restaurant in Morocco often means a higher price, but eating street food or ordering something from a local tea or coffee house will give you a taste of the real Morocco and save you money at the same time.
If you avoid peak season (November to March), you'll also find lower-priced accommodations. And you can spend plenty of time walking through places like the white-and-blue Rabat's Oudaias Kasbah neighborhood or the dusty trails on the Rif Mountains at no cost.
Accommodation: Best Beach Resorts in Morocco
6. Cheapest Western European Country: Portugal
With good bus, tram, and train connections, it's easy to travel around Portugal without spending much. While Lisbon can be slightly more expensive, eating and entertainment everywhere else in the country is very budget-friendly – even popular famous beach destinations such as Camilo Beach in the Algarve can be visited on a shoestring if you plan your trip well and don't need to sleep right on the beach.
The true high season in Portugal is only two months long (June and July) so traveling outside those months will help you find good deals in transportation and accommodation to save even more. Winter is also a great time to visit for amazing discounts, especially if you're heading to cities – with temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius in January, Portugal is never truly cold.
Most of Portugal's must-see attractions are in Lisbon and Sintra, where you'll find things like the medieval defensive Belem Tower; the Gothic Jerónimos Monastery; and the public square Praça do Comércio, surrounded by shops and cafés. These are either free to enter or cost very little.
Sintra is home to a number of palaces and castles – including the breathtaking hilltop medieval Castle of the Moors – that do have entry fees, but skipping the tours and just spending time exploring the grounds is equally stunning and significantly cheaper.
In general, a visit to Portugal is more about enjoying the local food, walking along the coastline, and discovering the sights, which will keep your costs low and allow you to see more of the country on a tight budget.
Accommodation: Best Holiday Resorts in Portugal
7. Cheapest South American Country: Bolivia
Bolivia is often passed on for more famous neighbors Peru and Brazil, but this country at the heart of the Andean mountain range has an impressive collection of sights to discover. Bolivia is a multiethnic country with 36 official indigenous languages and an ecosystem that varies from the desert llanos (plains) to the polar mountains in the western Andes.
Many of Bolivia's most famous sights are free to visit – including Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia and Peru (the largest lake in South America); a number of Pre-Columbian archaeological sites; salt lake Laguna Verde at the foot of a volcano; and Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat.
Trekking in the Valle de la Luna is an experience to remember, and the protected area charges no entry fee – walking through the tall stone spires and the colorful mountainsides in shades of reds, browns, and even dark violets beats almost any desert hike in the world.
Food, transportation, and accommodation in Bolivia cost a fraction of the prices you'll find in other South American countries – and prices are even cheaper during the months of April and May, before the high season starts.
8. Cheapest Safari Destination in Africa: Uganda
Kenya and Tanzania are known around the world as the big photo African safari destinations. The Serengeti and Maasai Mara reserves have the world's largest population of elephants, lions, and giraffes in the world. But safari camps aren't cheap, and both countries suffer from some civil unrest that often means tourists must join guided tours to see anything outside the city – and this means added expenses that end up making the countries less than affordable.
Uganda, on the other hand, is a safe and stable country with plenty of big animals to spot, plus one very special extra – this is the ultimate destination for gorilla trekking and the last place in the world where you can see large populations of mountain gorillas living free.
There are very strict rules in place for gorilla trekking, and Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park can only be explored in small groups by obtaining a trekking permit and then joining a guided tour into the jungle. Gorilla trekking permits aren't cheap or easy to obtain (the wait time can be as long as 24 months, since there's only a limited number of permits available every year), but a trip here is still very affordable for the wildlife-viewing experience of a lifetime.
To get even better prices, visit between March and May or during the months of October and November. These are the wettest months, so the treks are harder and more slippery, but the trekking packages and permits are much cheaper as well.
9. Cheapest Caribbean Nation to Visit: Dominican Republic
The Caribbean is one of those destinations where using travel packages and all-inclusive stays can sometimes turn out to be cheaper than budgeting on your own – and this is also true for the Dominican Republic.
If you're heading to Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, or other major beach destinations, restaurants and accommodations are going to be your major expenses, as prices are hiked up considerably during high season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April. For sun-worshippers who don't mind temperatures in the 30s, it might pay off to visit in summer, which is considered low season and considerably cheaper.
Many of the things to see and do in the Dominican Republic are free. This includes walking around to see the colonial architecture and visiting quirky museums like the free Museum of Chocolate in Santo Domingo. Punta Cana's Playa Blanca (White Beach) is a great place to visit for snorkeling – just bring your own mask to keep it free.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Family Resorts in the Dominican Republic
10. Cheapest Country for History Buffs: Egypt
For those interested in ancient civilizations, there are plenty of countries around the world that are more than just affordable. You could head to India to discover the opulence of the Taj Mahal, go to Jordan to see ancient tombs and temples, or fly to Peru to hike through the ruins of the lost city of Machu Picchu.
But Egypt – with its pyramids, Valley of the Kings, Great Sphinx of Giza, and 13th-century BC Abu Simbel Temples – takes a prominent spot at the top of the list. Even a tight budget will go a long way in Egypt, where for the price of a movie ticket, you can enter the ancient Abu Simbel Temples, get a full guided tour from the city of Luxor to the Valley of the Kings, or spend several hours tasting amazing local hot drinks and sweets at one of Cairo's many teahouses.
While you can find budget accommodations everywhere in Egypt, you can keep your trip even cheaper by hopping on a three-night cruise from Aswan to Luxor. For the same price as a couple of movie tickets, you get a place to sleep, some of the best views over temples and monuments on the coast, and often a chance to snorkel or swim in the Nile along the way.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Egypt
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit in Egypt
11. Cheapest Country in Central America: Nicaragua
Nicaragua's reputation as "the land of lakes and volcanoes" means outdoor lovers will have plenty to explore here: trails, jungles, mangrove swamps. National parks like Miraflores offer plenty of hikes in well-marked trails, some of which can be organized to include stays with local families overnight. This is not only cheaper than Nicaragua's resorts – which are already very affordable – but also a very unique experience.
Most of Nicaragua's 19 volcanoes can also be hiked with or without a guide, depending on your budget and how intense you want the route to be.
Local eateries known as comedor offer plenty of great food – Gallo pinto (fried rice and beans) is both a popular breakfast and main meal – for just pennies. And while flights are more expensive during high season, which runs from November to January, you'll still be paying a fraction of what neighboring countries would cost you.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Nicaragua
Read More: Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Nicaragua
12. Cheapest "New" Country to Visit: Myanmar
Although Myanmar is not without its challenges, it offers enchanting destinations at a fraction of the cost of other southeast Asian countries. Bagan – considered one of the world's top heritage sites – is the number one attraction in Myanmar, with over 2,000 stupas that are best admired when you catch a very affordable hot air balloon ride over the countryside. You can make exploring Bagan even cheaper by renting a bike or an electric scooter and just riding from temple to temple on your own.
Street food – consisting mostly of curries and noodles – is safe and very affordable, and you can grab snacks at a local supermarket for just pennies.
The biggest expense in Myanmar will be accommodation, as the supply is limited, and cheap places fill up fast. Make sure you book well in advance to get a better deal.
13. Cheapest Country for a Tropical Vacation: Mexico
If you live in the US or Canada, Mexico is your closest destination for a cheap beach getaway, simply because flying there will cost you a lot less than flying across the world to get to other budget destinations.
Plus, while some destinations in Mexico like Cancun attract lots of tourists (which often means higher prices), Cozumel and other smaller beaches are less busy and offer more discounts year-round. You'll get even better prices in July and August if you're willing to deal with some cloudy skies; otherwise March to June are still cheap but the weather is nicer.
Street food is very cheap, but if you're concerned about digestive troubles (usually not an issue on or near the beach, but more of a concern in off-the-beaten-path areas), local eateries offer cleaner setups and equally affordable food. For free entertainment, head to markets to enjoy live music or search for a cenote (natural sinkole) to swim in.
Accommodation: Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico
14. Cheapest Off-the-Beaten-Path Asian Country: Laos
Laos is a quiet, unassuming destination with a stunning countryside and some of the cheapest prices you'll find in Southeast Asia. The cheapest time to visit is between May and October, but this is the rainy season, which makes travel difficult, especially in the mountains or forests.
Luckily, Laos is cheap year-round, so try to arrange a trip between November and January – this is the absolute best time to explore the Mekong River, as the higher water levels mean waterways are at their best. You can get cheaper tickets even in high season if you book at least six months in advance.
Most of the best things to do in Laos are free (or extremely cheap) to explore, even in the capital city of Vientiane. This includes centuries-old temples, the Lao Textile museums (as well as most other museums around the country), and the night markets. Laos is a great place to explore on a bike, and these can be rented for days for very little money.
15. Cheapest Underrated Country in Europe: Albania
Albania remains relatively unknown as a European destination – a big surprise when you realize the country has beautiful beaches, and the coast is unofficially referred to as "the Albanian Riviera." Here, you can get plenty of sun, many kilometers of white sands, and lots of cafés by the waves – all for a small fraction of what you would pay in Greece or Spain.
Even Dhërmi beach, Albania's most famous coastal stop, is quiet (and filled with many good deals) outside the summer months. Saranda and Ksamil are equally stunning beaches that are even cheaper.
Many of the main attractions in Albania – including the 4th-century Rozafa Castle, the ancient ruins of Butrint, and a number of former war bunkers – charge entry fees that are the equivalent to less than a coffee would cost you in other European countries. Capital Tirana has plenty of free attractions to offer as well, including parks, museums, and more bunkers.
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Finding Cheap Destinations: The world is full of affordable destinations – some of them well-known places, others special little secrets waiting to be discovered. If you're searching for a summer getaway, take a look at the best cheap places to travel in July. Or see what winter wonders await around the world in our article, Best Cheap Places to Travel in January.