Seven on Sunday – Countries for the Budget Conscious (Part One)
The more that travel becomes popular and accessible to all, the less places in the world are going to be considered ‘bargain’ destinations. I set off around the world in 1999 and for several countries my budget was just $20 a day. I’m not sure that’s feasible anymore, but there are places where you still get a pretty decent bang for your buck. Today, as I sometimes do, I have tried to limit my list of seven to countries that I have personally visited. And more particularly, I am just doing the first four on my list as I’ve written quite a bit and don’t want the post to be too long.
It’s been 16 years since I went to Egypt, trying to do it on twenty dollars a day. Although I failed, in fact I looked at the budget and I was $130 over budget for my time there, that actually represents less than an extra ten dollars per day. From what I’ve heard, Egypt became more expensive. But there was the ‘Arab Spring’, devaluation of the currency and since then a lot of unrest. People are still going, but I’m not 100% sure I’d rush back there, but I believe it’s a pretty cheap place again these days.
I split a twin room with a mate that was $10 back in 1999 in Cairo, out Aswan hotel was a little more but much nicer. There are plenty of places with dorms as well so a little hunting should find you a bed under $10 a night. Considering Egypt has so many ancient wonders, it’s an amazing bargain of the place. If you’re heading there, please check the security situation on the ground before going!
I really wanted to include a European country here, and I think Romania probably fits the bill best. You might find say Albania a better bargain, but as I haven’t been there I don’t want to comment. Again, a long time since I visited Romania but I found it to be very cheap in 2004. If you’re staying in hostels and self-catering, well you’ll do really well.
Looking at current prices for Brasov, a popular destination (you might not want to spend time in Bucharest, which is more expensive than the rest of the country and doesn’t get a great rap from travellers anyway) Dorm beds for just over $10 US seem to still be common. In many places you may still be approached by women at bus or train stops offering a room or a bed for less. I did that with two friends in Bran, and I don’t think we even paid $5 each. But it was 2004!
Trains are a lot cheaper in this part of Europe – Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia etc. The cities are stunning, the mountains are brilliant and there is excellent hiking if that’s the sort of thing you like to do. You probably can find cheaper places in Europe, but Romania offers so much and is so varied, I think it’s the best option for the budget traveller on the continent.
Okay, so maybe it’s not the first country on your travel list, but Kyrgyzstan is beautiful, interesting and filled with friendly people. You’ve got a split in the north and the south (that’s a very rough and not particularly accurate approximation) where one part is mountainous and has some amazing hikes, whilst the south is dustier and a little like the Middle East.
But for those looking for a bargain, well, you needn’t fork out huge amounts to explore the country. In 2011 I was paying I less than $10 for a dorm bed in Karakol, and this wasn’t the cheapest place there. At the Sakura Guesthouse – a great, clean little place in the capital Bishkek, Their current price is a little over $7.20 US for a dorm bed. In a city where the opera is a bargain, filled with beautiful parks and cheap food. Transport in the bumpity ol minivans that ply the routes through Central Asia shouldn’t put you back more than $10 for a longish journey (6 hours for example) in the country.
Thailand used to be the dream budget location for backpackers back in the day – 1999, 2000 I visited it and it was pretty good value for money then. How about today? I went back less than a year ago and certainly prices have risen. But so has the amount of activities and amazing things to see and do. Oh, and the most important thing to drive prices up – there are more tourists now than ever before.
BUT – it’s still a decent budget destination. I mean for less than thirty bucks you can go into a cage with tigers. And $20 will get you a pretty decent rooms with air con. Probably! Maybe a few more bucks in Bangkok. However if you want to buy your meals from street stalls and eat away from places frequented by foreigners, you can save a packet in Thailand having a feed for around a dollar. If you avoid the tourist buses and aim for the local ones, you’ll only pay a few bucks for a journey of a few hours. Get away from the popular islands, Bangkok and Chiang Mai and everything will be cheaper again. Thailand is perhaps the King of budget destinations. However – it’s not my number 1, 2 or even 3. What are?
Well, you’ll need to tune in next Sunday to find out! For now, it’s goodbye – and May the Journey Never End!