Whether you’re on your first trip looking for fun, alternative or hip cities around the world, this guide, written by Chris Mercer, will help you find the best budget destinations for first-time travelers.
Some people believe that traveling is a luxury hobby that is available for millionaires only. However, it’s not true.
Today, traveling is affordable for everyone. If you have no money to pay for five stars hotel, you can stay at a hostel or couchsurfer’s apartment.
If you can’t afford dinner at Michelin star restaurants, you can eat at small local cafes or cook for yourself. Now everyone has an opportunity to see new cities and explore new countries without spending a fortune.
In the world, there are plenty of budget-friendly destinations that are worth the visit. If you have a desire to travel and have $100 in your pocket, you can start planning your first trip to one of the cities we recommend in this article.
Here are the top 9 best budget destinations for first-time travelers:
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
Mexico is famous for its luxury white-sand resorts located along the Caribbean coast: Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen. However, these cities are pricey, and they don’t represent real Mexican culture.
So if you travel for the first time and want to immerse yourself in a new culture, you should better travel to Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is a city that has saved its authenticity. Here you can find colonial buildings made from green volcanic stone and authentic local markets.
Also, you can visit Monte Alban, the archaeological site that is located just a 20-minute drive from the city center. Here you can explore the ruins of Zapotec civilization that existed between 200 and 600 A.D.
Besides, if you love everything about archeology, you will find it interested in visiting Milta, a site that was built more than 10,000 years ago.
Accommodations in Oaxaca are affordable for everyone. According to the prices at Booking.com, the cheapest bed in a dorm room costs $5 while an apartment costs around $16 per night.
2. Quito, Ecuador
If you want to travel around South America, start your trip from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. It’s a cheap and safe destination for inexperienced travelers.
Quito is surrounded by a few volcanoes including Cotopaxi, the 2nd largest active volcano in the world. In the bright day, you can take a ride in a cable car up to a viewpoint located 3,945 meters above the sea level.
You will be able to overlook the entire city of Quito and ten closest volcanoes.
If you love hiking, zip lining, and river rafting, you can go to Ecuador’s national park called Mindo. If you are looking for real adventures, you can go bike down the volcano or go on a horseback ride in Cotopaxi Park.
As for the prices of accommodations, a bunk bed in a mixed dormitory room costs $4, while a decent apartment costs from $15 to $20.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
In contrast to other big European cities such as London and Vienna, Lisbon is affordable for budget travelers. So if you want to start exploring Europe, choose Portugal as your first travel destination, and you will not be mistaken.
Lisbon is a magnificent city located on seven hillsides overlooking the Rio Tejo. It consists of white-domed cathedrals, cozy cobbled streets, and ancient ruins that keep the secrets of the past.
Lisbon attracts visitors with its beautiful parks such as Jardim do Príncipe Real, Jardim de Campo de Ourique, Tapada das Necessidades and many others.
Also, this city is famous for its tramway network that is in operation since 1873. A single ride tram ticket costs €3.00.
Taking into account that Lisbon is the capital of a European country, Prices for accommodation are pretty low. The cheapest bed in a dorm room in Lisbon costs $9, and single room costs $16 per night.
4. Lviv, Ukraine
Do you dream of visiting Paris, but can’t afford it right now? You can travel to Lviv, a small Ukrainian town also known as “Little Paris”.
This place has the special atmosphere of a medieval city. It charms travelers with its narrow cobblestone streets, gothic temples, and baroque cathedrals.
If you want to see how European towns looked like a few centuries ago, Lviv is a perfect destination for you.
Even more, this place is a must-visit for you if you like coffee, hand-made chocolate, and craft beer.
You will be amazed by the high quality of food and low prices. It will take you more than a month to visit each coffee shop, restaurant, and bar in this city.
What about accommodation prices? The cheapest bed in a dorm room in Lviv costs $4. The most affordable apartment costs $14 per night.
5. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is a popular yet budget-friendly destination. This beautiful city represents the greatness of the Turkic culture and Islamic religion.
It combines refined European style and Middle-East charm.
Istanbul is a unique modern city that cherishes its heritage. Here you can find the magnificent Blue Mosque, mysterious Basilica Cistern, the Galata Tower built in the mid 14th century, as well as masterpieces of the contemporary architecture.
If you like to visit local markets, you will be amazed by the beauty of the Grand Bazaar.
Here you can not only buy souvenirs and Middle Eastern sweets but also communicate with friendly local people.
This city offers plenty of budget-friendly accommodations for international travelers. You can stay in a dorm room that cost $6 or rent apartments that cost $34 per night.
Want to discover other cool places in Turkey?
6. Cairo, Egypt
The great news is that if you travel on a budget, you still have a chance to see one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You can go to Cairo and visit the famous Giza pyramid complex.
Here you will see the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure that were constructed c. 2580 – c. 2560 BC.
A great idea is to take a walk at the beautiful Al-Azhar Park or go shopping in Khan Al-Khalili market.
Another option could be to explore the Nile river or visit the Egyptian Antiquities Museum.
All these activities cost around $5.Most dormitories in Cairo cost about $5, and standard single rooms – about $10.
7. Pattaya, Thailand
If you feel stuck in your life, your job or your home, you should visit an exotic country that will turn your world upside down.
You should go to Thailand to experience a brand new culture, new cuisine, and a new spiritual world.
Pattaya is the cheapest Thai resort that attracts budget travelers from all over the world. This city is famous for its beautiful beaches and naughty nightlife.
If you want to spend your days at white-sand beaches and your nights at noisy night clubs – Pattaya is a perfect spot for you.
In Pattaya, you can try authentic Thai massage, visit Buddha temples, taste fried scorpions, and smelly durian fruit.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that this city is located close to magnificent tropical islands. It will take you from 20 minutes by ferry to two hours to get to the blue water paradise.
What about the prices for accommodations? A bunk bed in a mixed dormitory room will cost you $4. An apartment with a private bathroom and mini-kitchen will cost you $16.
8. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a new travel destination. It’s not overcrowded with tourists and it offers decent prices on everything from food and transportation to accommodation and entertainment.
Today Ho Chi Minh City welcomes travelers from all over the world. It offers excursions to the Cu Chi Tunnels, authentic art performances at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater, original Vietnamese coffee, and best low-cost spa treatments.
If you want to try the best Vietnamese food, Benthanh Street Food Market is a must-visit spot for you.
As you have already guessed, Ho Chi Minh City is the most budget-friendly destination on this list. In this Vietnamese city, you can stay at hostels that charge $2 per night or cheap hotels that charge from $10 per night.
9. Tbilisi, Georgia
There’s perhaps a no better place to go on a budget than Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia if you want to get away from the daily grind and explore a brand new part of the world.
Whether you want to trek in the hills, enjoy the street food, or just take in the stunning architecture, you can do it all here for less.
For 70 years Tbilisi was part of the USSR, and this period of its history has shaped the very fabric of the buildings you’ll see around you.
Take a look at the old relics for sale at the popular Dry Bridge Flea Market by Dedaena Park, and you’ll be lost for words.
When you’re done shopping, why not head on over to the Abanotubani district and put your feet up in one of the ancient bathhouses? Enjoy the mosaics, rest, and take in the whole experience.
It’ll give you plenty of energy to head back out and feast on an ample helping of the delicious khinkali dumplings the city is known for. With plenty of rooms available for as little as $10, what’s there not to like?
Discover other awesome destinations in Georgia
Don’t wait for the right moment. Start traveling today!
Life is too short to spend it on waiting for a “big round-the-world trip”. If you can’t afford a luxury trip to New Zeeland or Singapore right now, it’s not a problem.
This year you can go to less expensive countries like Vietnam and Ukraine and gain your first travel experience. In a few years, when you will have enough money on your bank account, you will be ready to explore New Zealand.
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter which destination you will choose, and how much money you will spend on your trip. The first travel experience will bring you positive emotions and will definitely make you happier!
We hope you enjoyed reading about these beautiful cities and we hope this guide will help you find even more best budget destinations for first-time travelers!
About the Author
Chris Mercer is a happy freelance writer, traveler, and founder of Citatior, a powerful academic formatting tool for the students. His aim is to visit every country in the world.