Are you setting out on a round-the-world travel adventure and you want to figure out which destinations will be the cheapest along the way? Or are you planning a vacation to a place where you can easily stretch your budget or travel longer for less?
You could find everything you need to know online if you’re willing to go down every internet rabbit hole, spend weeks on research trying to find the valid sources, and lay it all out in spreadsheets. Or you could buy one book and have a well-researched rundown at your fingertips instantly in one place.
Finding the cheapest places to travel in the world takes a lot of experience and research. Most people haven’t spent long enough in enough places to really have their finger on the pulse and unless you live and breathe travel news and financial news, it’s hard to keep up on the current status. Fortunately I’m doing all that for you every month.
Updated and refined several times since its debut in 2002, the most authoritative guide to this subject is now out in its 5th edition. The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 26 countries where your travel dollars are worth a fortune is now out on Amazon around the world and available in bookstores via Ingram Spark. It will be coming to Kobo and the Apple store in October.
I write about the cheapest places to travel a lot on this blog and in other media publications, but I also see a lot of really unreliable and just plain wrong information out there. Many articles you see on the best-known websites are from desk jockey writers who have barely traveled outside of New York City or are on the company dime every time they board a plane. I’ve been to every country in this book, however, some of them multiple times over a span of two decades or more.
I didn’t just sit by the pool at a fancy resort and talk to people on a short vacation either. I took local transportation, stayed in independent hotels, ate at bargain restaurants, and took notes in the grocery store. I’ve been doing the same since my first backpacking trip in 1994, so I also have a good sense of what has changed and what hasn’t. Since I’ve traveled to many of these places with my family or in a small group, I’m also checking out the mid-range vacation budget costs too. It’s not just for those trying to squeak by on $20 a day.
What Has Changed in the Cheapest Travel Destinations
Yes, there’s inflation, there are trade wars, and there are currency fluctuations. So people often saw that the 4th edition of this book was published in 2014 and assumed it was hopelessly out of date. Prices often don’t fluctuate that much though, especially in relation to other countries around them. So while Thailand may be more expensive now than it was five years ago, it still gives you roughly the same discount you would get compared to traveling in Korea or Japan instead. Prices go up in the expensive spots too. The Czech Republic is still going to give you much cheaper beers and sausage dinners than Germany, even if the Czechs start dealing with high inflation in Prague all of a sudden.
In some cases though, prices have actually dropped in dollar or euro terms because of exchange rate changes. Malaysia is far cheaper now for foreigners than it was in 2014. Cambodia is slightly more dear, but Vietnam is a tad cheaper.
You see this play out around the world if your home currency has risen in value or the local one has dropped. Egypt is cheaper for travelers than it already was five years ago. Argentina has gone from being a bargain to being expensive to being a bargain again.
Again though, in relation to its neighbors, the “more bang for your buck” principle still applies. Even when Argentina got more expensive, it was still a better value than Chile. If Hungary were to get 20% more expensive tomorrow, it would still cost half of what you pay across the border in Austria. The Bulgarian currency is pegged to the euro, so travel prices in Bulgaria are going to move at roughly the same rate they move in Belgium, staying equally cheaper.
I updated every line of every chapter in this new edition, but in some cases I didn’t have to do much with the prices. If we don’t have illogical tariffs, new sin taxes, or currency fluctuations to deal with, prices rarely shoot up across the board in a space of five years. Any gradual inflation rises are generally in line with wage increases—apart from oddities like health care, education, and plane tickets. (The latter have actually gotten cheaper on most international routes the past five years.)
New Additions to the Cheap Travel Countries List
The subtitle of this book used to have 21 countries in it, now it has 26. So does that mean it costs less to travel the world than it did five years ago?
Well, yes and no. It partly depends on what currency you earn your living in. For those earning dollars, the world will continue to be on sale in 2020. There are more countries that qualify as cheap places to travel because of currency changes or improvements in facilities.
One country went from being an honorable mention to having its own full chapter: Mexico. That’s purely because of exchange rate changes. When I first started traveling to Mexico, one dollar got you 10 pesos. Now it routinely gets you 19 pesos. Since most things are priced in pesos outside of the most popular beach resort zones, your spending power has increased quite a bit. Mexico is not the cheapest country in Latin America, but since it’s so close, the bargain airfares (and robust Mexican airlines climate) help make for cheaper vacations than flying all the way to South America or Asia.
Three of the other countries I’ve added are in Europe. Over the years, the Europe section of the book has grown more than the others. This seems counter-intuitive since it’s crazy expensive in Norway, Switzerland, or any Western European capital city in summer. Cheap travel in Europe is not an oxymoron though if you pick the right places. With infrastructure getting better in some formerly ignored locations, quite a bit has changed since 2014. Those ignored locations are in the Balkans, the less-visited neighbors of (not cheap) Croatia.
This edition I added Albania, Montenegro, and Bosnia. Yes, that sounds like a history lesson trio from last century, but the perception of this area still often is in the last century. As a result, you can find prices that are on par with parts of Southeast Asia or Central America, but in a part of Europe filled with history and incredible scenery. So if you’re looking for the cheapest places to travel in Europe, you could land in not-as-cheap Greece then head north, making a bargain line across these countries, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and others.
The last addition is hard to spell, to pronounce, and to find on a map: Kyrgyzstan. I was amazed by what I found there though in the mellow capital city of Bishkek, in Karakol, and while hiking in the incredible mountains for a week. Gear up for Kyrgyzstan and go see what I mean! Everyone I know who has been there has come back raving.
A counterpart you could say the same for is the country of Georgia, which is at the top of my list of places to get to in 2020. I only put it in the honorable mentions this go-round, but this barely discovered gem will probably make it into edition #6.
What Others Have to Say About The World’s Cheapest Destinations
Hey, you don’t have to believe me that this book is worth $10 (Kindle) or $17 (paperback) of your hard-earned money. You can see what real readers have to say when you check out the Amazon page. Here are a few advance reviews from other avid travelers that you’ll find on the back cover and inside.
“So much to see, so little money. Why not maximize your travel by getting the most per dollar? This terrific book will guide you to the best inexpensive countries, places where your budget will earn you ten times the joy. Tim Leffel’s lifelong in trekking the world for cheap is distilled into very succinct advice, great tips, expert comparisons between countries, and a sensible breakdown of how to get the most world travel from your limited money. This book is one of the best investments in life you can make.”
– Kevin Kelly, author of The Inevitable, Cool Tools, and Asia Grace
I’ve been traveling for over 20 years using Tim’s strategy of traveling to cheap destinations. I wish I had his book when I first started to help me decide where to go and understand how much it will cost me. The World’s Cheapest Destinations will show you how much you need to travel to some of the most excotic destinations in the world and why you’d want to go there. This is your path to amazing memories!
– Caroline Makepeace, co-founder of yTravelBlog.com
“The World’s Cheapest Destinations is a must-read for anyone wanting to travel more without breaking the bank. Tim Leffel shares his extensive travel experience gathering data from around the world to help with planning budgets, choosing destinations and saving money. When looking for solid information about a destination, we look to someone like Tim that who has the proven track record and travel expertise far beyond today’s fly-by-night ‘influencers’.”
– Dave and Deb from The Planet D
“When Tim Leffel writes about the world’s cheapest destinations, people listen (especially me). Tim has traveled the world and researched it thoroughly so he knows what he’s talking about.”
– John DiScala, founder and editor of JohnnyJet.com
“I bought the first edition of this book in 2004 before my first round-the-world trip and I continue to be impressed by the detail. This book has been an inspiration and valuable resource for many thousands of travelers, and no one does a better job at giving budget information and travel advice that is actually useful and relevant.”
– Roger Wade, editor of PriceOfTravel.com
“Tim Leffel continues to dive deep into the best budget destinations of the world with this latest edition. Expanded with more information, this book is a must for anyone looking to know where to go to get the most out of their money when they travel.”
– Matt Kepnes, author of Ten Years a Nomad and How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
“Tim Leffel’s travel expertise is unmatched. The World’s Cheapest Destinations contains life-changing advice that goes far beyond your typical guidebook. His unique perspective makes this required reading for all independent travelers looking to make the most out of their first, or next, adventure. Get ready to upgrade your bucket list without breaking the bank.”
– Jason Moore, host of Zero To Travel podcast and blog
“Tim Leffel’s book has been a must read for world travelers like me for almost two decades. In this 5th edition, you will learn about the current best tourist destinations to get the most for your money, many places that are cheaper to visit than staying home. The World’s Cheapest Destinations shows how travel can be cheaper than staying home. So, get out there!”
– Jeffrey Lehmann, EMMY awarded host of the Weekend Explorer active travel series on PBS
“Leffel has long been a guru at balancing the practicalities of budget travel for people all tastes and backgrounds with a keen sense of judgment about the aesthetic value offered by the many and varied countries around the world. In this expanded edition, with a succinct introduction addressing common questions he has been asked and answered over the years, Tim’s easy conversational style is so full of clear and subtle insights that his advice and practical tips immediately become self-evident and fruitful. Unless money is no object, here is a book we would recommend to all travelers planning their next trips.”
– Gregory Hubbs, Editor-in-Chief, www.TransitionsAbroad.com
See more reviews on the Amazon page!