One of the most important determinants of an international travel budget is the destination you choose to visit. Some countries are always bargains, while the price of other destinations may rise and fall with the nation's economic climate, political situation, and exchange rate.
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The good news for travelers on a budget is that there are many economic options that offer great value for hotels, transportation, and activities. Here are some of the cheapest destinations to consider in 2017.
From tea gardens of Darjeeling, to the white sand beaches of Goa, to the tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, and the Great Living Chola Temples (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Tamil Nadu, India has something for everyone. Take a cruise on the extensive system of coastal canals in Kerala, or stroll the temples of Varanasi, an ancient city considered holy to both Buddhists and Hindus.
The price of travel in India is hard to beat. The cost of living ranks near the bottom of Numbeo's 2017 Cost of Living Index. When I was backpacking in India, I was able to get by on a budget of $200-$250 a month (and the exchange rate has only improved since then for Americans).
This kind of travel budget is hard to imagine anywhere else in the world. Granted, there were trade-offs. The hotels I stayed in cost only about $6 for a double, but the quality varied greatly.
Food quality and prices also run a wide range. You can get a bite from a street stall for 50 cents or less, while a vegetarian meal in a simple restaurant usually costs $1-$2. As with any destination, if you want to spend more, you can usually find more expensive options, too, unless you're in a very small town off the beaten track that doesn't see much tourism.
Nepal is ranked a bit higher on Numbeo's list, but it is still an extremely affordable country for travel. In my experience, a typical meal of delicious momos (steamed meat or vegetable dumplings) or traditional noodle soup costs about 75 cents.
Of course, costs are variable, especially depending on the types of activities you pursue. The Nepalese Himalayas are full of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including trekking, mountaineering, and whitewater rafting.
If you are an experienced hiker, you can buy a map for less than $5 and strike out on your own, but less advanced hikers may feel more comfortable with a knowledgeable guide. According to EliteTrekkers, a service that matches trekkers to guides and porters, hiring an experienced guide costs $28 per day.
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Keep in mind that more technical trips to summit different mountains come with a very different cost, requiring the use of a guide and experienced team of support crew members. Expect to pay $60,000 or more for a trip to the summit of Mt. Everest, including gear, permits, food, and accommodations in Kathmandu before and after the expedition.
Mexico is the 10th cheapest country in terms of cost of living, according to Numbeo. For travelers departing from the U.S., Mexico is particularly attractive because the cost of airfare to your destination is often very affordable. While flying to India out of the United States can cost around $800 round trip, I consistently find round-trip flights to Mexico from major U.S. departure cities such as Houston for as little as $200. Of course, prices depend on your travel dates and where you are flying from. Traveling during low season will lower your prices significantly.
Moreover, Mexico has a fairly developed tourism sector with a wide range of accommodations to fit most budgets and comfort levels.
Many Americans already know the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta, but there are many other must-see destinations in Mexico, including the monarch butterfly reserves of Michoacan and Copper Canyon in Chihuahua. My favorite colonial towns include Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and Taxco. These towns were historically rich from the silver mines, and preservation efforts have left them with a beautiful architectural legacy.
Moldova, a country in Eastern Europe that shares a border with Romania and Ukraine, is also among the 10 cheapest countries, according to Numbeo. This former Soviet republic offers a rural, off-the-beaten path appeal, as one of Europe's least visited countries, according to Lonely Planet.
The countryside is made up of large forests, rolling hills, and vineyards with plentiful wine-tastings. Moldova is also home to numerous historical ruins and monasteries sure to interest history buffs. If you're looking to travel cheaply this could be the European destination for you.
With it's sunny island destinations, delicious food, and iconic historical sites such as the Acropolis, Greece offers plenty to do for travelers. While Greece continues to experience economic problems, prices are especially low for Western travelers. Greece made Rough Guide's list of 20 cheapest countries to travel to now.
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According to Lonely Planet, a budget traveler staying in dorms and eating at local markets can get by on around 60 euros ($65) a day. Compared to many European countries, that's a bargain. If Greece has always been on your list of places to see, now may be the time to go.
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