Best friends are awesome. So is travel, but when your bank account is as skinny as a piece of thread, planning the trip of a lifetime on a budget can seem impossible. However, there are creative ways to save on travel. The main way is to select a city or country that is inexpensive to begin with and work from there. There are places around the globe where food is inexpensive, and you can get hotels, tour guides, and even flights without breaking the bank.
Preparation is the #1 best way to prevent overspending. Traveling for less means you can either save some money or have longer stays than you would traveling somewhere expensive like London, Iceland or Tokyo. Look for places rich in culture and natural landscapes (which are usually free to see) … and ones who’s currency stacks up nicely next to the USD.
In Vietnam, you can get an entire meal for less than a vanilla latte at Starbucks — And that pretty much goes for everything from food to traveling around the country. Major hotel chains can still charge the same American rate as you would find at a Hyatt or Marriott here, but smaller, boutique hotels with upscale accommodations and centralized locations are a steal.
You can take a street food tour via motorbike for $20 and eat like royalty — sampling all the local flavors of Vietnam. Take a tour with your BFF on the Mekong Delta, sipping on coconuts and meeting the locals who harvest honey and their own candy.
Hiking up Machu Picchu is on everyone’s bucket list, but many don’t know that Peru is actually a very affordable country to travel throughout. The capital of Lima boasts one of the top culinary scenes in the world and it’s so inexpensive.
Peru’s currency is currently at 1/3 of America’s which means you can get a hearty plate of ceviche for about $3 and a Pisco Sour cocktail for even less. Take a cooking class for under $20 and a food tour in Chinatown where you can taste the influence of Asian cuisine in South America. Best part? You can score some awesome souvenirs for the fam for around a dollar.
Southeast Asia is one of the most inexpensive places to travel in the world and Cambodia, with its Ancient Temples and tempting Kmer food, ranks among the most popular. In Cambodia, cocktails are $1 – $2 and paired with a night out at the Cambodia Circus ($10) via a tuk-tuk ride ($2) you have yourself a wild night on the town for less than 20 bucks. You’ll love the markets downtown where you can get scarves and elephant printed lounge pants for less than $3. In Siem Reap, there are many temples including the infamous Angkor Wat where you can get some great Snapchat stories of you and your bestie.
4. Costa Rica
Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat without restriction is a beautiful thing and in Costa Rica, there are many National Parks that cost just a few dollars to enter. Once inside, you can partake in a free self-guided tour seeing monkeys, rainbow macaw parrots, and breathtaking butterflies. Food and lodging in Costa Rica are also very affordable, but the best part is the beaches — which of course, are all free. Getting around is cheap by boat and bus — less than $10 for an 8-hour ride between cities. Airfare from the United States can run less than traveling within the states and now Southwest Airlines has added Costa Rica to their routes… even better!
5. New Orleans, Louisiana
Traveling within America for cheap can be hard due to the excessive costs of hotel rooms. However, there are other ways to save so you can travel on the cheap in New Orleans. Flights to New Orleans from major cities across the country can be affordable if you book in advance and on reputable sites like Skyscanner.com. Once there, you can find inexpensive places to eat and drink where the food is top notch. Coffee and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde costs less than a trip to Starbucks, and drink specials at bars and clubs often come with free live music and cheap bar bites. Self-guided tours of the homes of the Garden District are free and nightly ghost tours are also very affordable so you can see the sites and frights that make New Orleans one of the most iconic cities in America.
Pro tip: instead of splurging on a hotel room, get a hostel. Many think that hostels are simply a European thing but that’s just not true. NoLa has quite a few nice and reputable hostels that can welcome you to the Louisiana city.
One of the hottest countries to travel to right now is Colombia. Forget what you saw on the Netflix show Narcos, this country has completely changed since the ’80s. The colorful towns, amazing coffee, and rooftop bars with views for days are all part of the appeal.
Quaint towns like Centro offer tiny streets that are safe for tourists, lined with restaurants and shops that have that European-esque feel. For $30 a day you can eat three square meals, drink some good beer, and see the lovely country. Free or discounted walking tours are usually offered by hotels and hostels in the area. Take your bestie to the Amazon Forest or the Andes Mountains for more of an outdoors adventure.
One of the most popular destinations for budget travel in Southeast Asia, in Thailand your dollar goes a long way. There are plenty of things to do in this country — from visiting an elephant sanctuary, getting a pedicure by callous-eating fish (yes.), and eating scorpions on a stick. Set aside $25 – $30 per day and choose destinations like Chiang Mai and Khao Yai instead of Bangkok or Koh Samui. Choose local food instead of western food like hamburgers and pizza and you’ll be saving money at every turn!
Morocco is definitely a country you want to add to your bucket list and traveling with your bestie is the best way to experience it. Marrakesh is a very busy city with bustling outdoor markets, so it’s best to stick close to your BFF and make sure the other one doesn’t get lost in it all, plus the buddy system is the best way to stay safe, avoid scams and stick firmly against people trying to sell you a million things.
Because of the culture, alcohol is not readily available and can be quite expensive when found, so this might be a good destination for those of you not looking to party hard. One of the top things to do in Morocco is travel via camel through the Sahara desert. Many tour companies offer discounted rates depending on how many days you want to do the activity. Food is relatively cheap and you can get lunch for about $4, and sitting down for a meal comes with lots of free extras like bread, olives, and sometimes a salad. Most hostels and hotels in the area offer free breakfast, so make sure you and your BFF start the morning off free by taking advantage of this complimentary meal. It’s also a stone’s throw from Europe so you can get relatively cheap airfare booking from Spain.
In recent years, flights to Ireland have plummeted and that is great news for you and your BFF. There are hostels and inexpensive hotels in Ireland (especially if you venture outside of Dublin city center) so you can save your money for tours and Guinness beer.
Since a lot of Dublin’s population are students (Trinity college is the party hub for Dublin) there are plenty of places to get deals on food and drinks, catering to college kids from all over Europe. Trains and buses make it easy to get to all the great sites around Ireland like the Cliffs of Moher, Cork and Giant’s Causeway without breaking the bank.
If you and the bestie are into nightlife, then look no further than a trip to Argentina. For just $40 a day you can live lavishly, eating insanely delicious meals, tooling around feeling boho-chic in the bohemian village of San Telmo and going wine tasting in the Malbec region. Those of us who are extra adventurous can travel the southernmost part of Argentina, a region called Patagonia and hop on a boat to Antarctica. Yes, really.
Flights between cities are pretty cheap, but you can also opt for a bus ride to spend even less money, but more time (some rides take a full 24 hours to certain cities). Argentina’s economy is not the greatest at the moment, so American dollars are much welcome and you can score some impressive deals on flights and hotel.
Most people who travel to Europe forget about going a little further east to the countries of Eastern Europe. Romania is a great place to find delicious street food, hostels for as little as $10 a night, and cheap cocktails. What’s great is that most of the sightseeing in Romania is free – city streets covered in cobblestone, hiking the beautiful and historical mountains, walking through medieval towns and exploring the stunning architecture and towering cathedrals. You can also visit the home of Dracula in Sighisoara. Spooky!
Portugal, home of Port wine, is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. I mean .60 cents for quality coffee is enough to get you and your bestie wired for a day of fun – vintage tram rides, glam beaches, and wine vineyards galore. Party hostels in Lisbon can even be as cheap as 7 euro even during the summer if you book early.
What’s great about most cities in Portugal, though, is that you’ll be able to discover all the beauty of the country without being swarmed by tourists. It’s one of the least crowded countries in Europe.
Greece’s unstable economy has become a magnet for tourists who are quick to take advantage of the country’s travel deals. The popular touristy islands like Mykonos and Santorini are still quite expensive, but quieter islands like Crete and Paros are cheaper destinations with breathtaking beaches and views. You and the bestie can sip cocktails ($3 – $5) and share large plates of kebabs, greek salads, tzatziki sauce and pita for next to nothing. Seriously, family-style dining with friends hardly costs a thing.
Take a catamaran ride to and from the islands. It makes for an inexpensive and fun way to tour the islands.
14. South Africa
South Africa always seems like one of those far off, scarily expensive places. Getting there can be a little pricey for sure, but that’s why being diligent about booking flights early and at optimal times is so important. There are great flight deals and packages out there for those with a keen eye.
However, when you do get to South Africa, the dollar goes a long way. Everyday costs like food, hotel rooms, and adventures are very affordable. Being able to see that wonder of South Africa and, of course, taste the amazing wine is worth it enough to save up for a flight and have an adventure of a lifetime.
15. Las Vegas, Nevada
What makes Las Vegas so affordable is all the competition you have from every hotel and live show vying to get your dollars. Check out weekend package deals from top hotels that offer rooms, show tickets, and dining credit for less than $400. Flights to Las Vegas are aplenty and getting a good deal is usually a pretty easy find with budget airlines.
Getting into clubs can come with no cover charge and a free ticket at most places, especially if you are staying in the hotel. Link up with a club promoter on Facebook if you want to have an even more swaggy deal. Food at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs can be pricey (duh), so veer a little off the strip for those massive buffet bargains and happy hours at local bars where you can quench your *thirst* and feed your hunger for under $10.
This country is considered the Southeast Asia of South America for its affordability. It’s also a great place to have some adventures with your BFF. Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest lake is a beautiful place to take in the scenery and spend time with people who actually live there. The very famous Bolivia salt flats are stunning and reflect a mirror image when you’re standing on them. Flights from Peru are fairly inexpensive, as is food and lodging once you get there. Prepare for high altitudes and differences in the climate when traveling in the Andes.
Cuba is now a lot easier to travel to than before with major airlines recently adding Cuba to their routes. The flights are priced like domestic flights so traveling from Miami is an affordable detour. While there are still restrictions on types of travel, it’s a great country to add to your list now before it becomes overrun with McDonald’s and KFC. The downside is internet is a little rough to get in Cuba, but the upside is there are many small boutique hotels and Bed & Breakfasts where you can find rooms for as little as $20/night. Vintage cars are all over for great photo ops as well as tasty rum cocktails and salsa dancing.
18. Scottsdale, Arizona
Arizona in April — believe it or not — is dead and the weather is perfect. You can sit outside at one of the many bars in Scottsdale and enjoy some killer happy hours – $3 nachos, $3 margaritas, and the company of your best friend – priceless. Rent a car and head out to the Grand Canyon (entrance to the park is under $20 per car) and spend the day traveling to different parts of the majestic canyon, stopping to eat and drink along the way.
Hotel rooms are also very affordable and many come with kitchens so you can stock up on Trader Joe’s two-buck Chuck and have yourself a party on a budget, saving money for gemstones and turquoise you can find in Sedona.