Backpacking overseas is one of the most economic and adventurous ways to vacation. For years, penniless college students have enjoyed grabbing their gear, some good friends, a map, and setting out onto an unknown place. That’s how famous European traveller Rick Steves started out in 1973! But the world is changing, and there are some things you need to consider before you go, like where to backpack, your safety, what to bring and how money you can spend. Are you willing to camp, or will you be staying in hostels? How much will food cost? Finding cheap places to travel can be tricky, but with these top ten best places to backpack you are guaranteed to see the world without breaking the bank. Get ready, grab your gear and go
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Nepal is a classic destination for backpacking on a budget. Home of Mount Everest and the Garden of Dreams, this country shares a border with Tibet and India. Head to Birgunj, the nation’s commercial capital, to see the Durga Temple, clock tower, and Shankar Acharya Gate, where India meets Nepal. If you’re looking for something a bit more spiritual, try Lumbini, where Lord Buddha was born 2500 years ago. In the wake of the 2015 earthquake, Nepal worked quickly to repair their tourism infrastructure, and wallet-friendly country is once again open for business. Four for you Nepal, you GO Nepal!
Thailand is perfect for budget-conscious backpackers looking for a tropical land with a rich culture and (obvi) world-class cuisine. Students can enjoy Bangkok on as little as $20 a day. Try your hand at Thai Boxing, then fill up on the renowned street food and authentic Thai iced tea from the roadside stores. Wander around Buddhist temples and architectural masterpieces that are full of the country’s history, or explore the country’s exotic islands. You can’t go wrong with a backpack trip to Thailand.
Eat, Pray, Love your way through this awe-inspiring country! We don’t judge. Backpacking India is both easy and inexpensive. Student hostels are located in all the major cities, but you’ll have to leave luxuries like hot water pressure and air conditioning at home in exchange for miraculous sites (and some of the best people-watching on the planet). The vast subcontinent has everything from desert safaris to the beaches of Goa to the Himalayan Mountains. Whether you yearn to see the the Taj Mahal or to sleep in the city of Bollywood, India is a backpacker’s BFF with dozens of cheap places to travel.
Like Thailand, a backpacker can do Sri Lanka on $20 a day, but they have to be careful. Eat at the local cafes, take public transportation, stay in cheap hostels or seaside cabanas, and avoid pricey sightseeing. National parks, cultural centers and archaeological sites often use two seperate entry fees — one for natives, and one for foreigners (which can easily be twice as much). But with a little forethought, and some haggling skills, this monkey-ridden tropical island can be a backpacker’s paradise.
Indonesia is one of the best places to backpack, with literally thousands of islands for students to explore. Like literally literally. Something between 13 and 18 thousand, depending on who you ask. If you are scratching your head about where to start, head to Sumatra, where you can take in the morning mist from the window of a cozy lodge, listen to the wild monkeys’ calls, or read a book by the waterfall. If you prefer the sound of beachside yoga, Sumba Island is for you. It’s only 400km away from Bali, with equally exciting snorkeling, surfing, and fishing. Most of Indonesia can easily be accomplished on a backpacker’s budget, but be careful — if you want to go to every island, the transportation will add up.
There’s plenty to do in this budget-friendly country. After seeing the colonial buildings of Granada, drive 20 minutes to the town of Masaya, where the volcanic lake Laguna de Apoyo dazzles visitors with its warm, bright blue waters. Nicaragua is also a great place to volunteer. December through February are the best months to travel, when the temperature stays below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
With its world-famous rainforests, ruins and beaches, Peru is really an amazing (and cheap) place to visit. It’s best to have a little Spanish under your belt, as most of the population does not speak English. Otherwise, don’t stress—this laid-back country is kind to the disorganized traveler. The capital, Lima, is a good place to start your backpack trip if you don’t have a game plan, but you may end up hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu or partying in the beach town of Máncora. Backpacking Peru will be an unpredictable, unforgettable adventure.
Turkey has become an increasingly popular backpacker destination due to its spectacular landscapes and unique history as the bridge between Asia and Europe. Turkey’s commercial capital of Istanbul also served as the political center of both the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Start your journey here, where stretching your dollar is easy. Visit the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Chora Church and Istanbul Old Town, but do not miss the Grand Bazaar, a market that dates back to 15th century. Packed with thousands of shops, it is the pulse of the city, and the perfect place to absorb Turkish culture and cuisine.
Albania is a cheap alternative to Greece and Italy, which all feature gorgeous Mediterranean coastlines. Visit the capital, Tirana, to see how Albanian culture and architecture has been influenced by their relationships with the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Rome. Hike Mount Dajti to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. This is the best place to backpack on the Adriatic Sea. Unlike other European destinations, Albania has backpacker hostels that run from 9€-15€ a night, and equally affordable food. For almost no money at all you can spend your afternoons snacking on Balkan burek (a flaky pastry filled with cheese or meat and onions) and a cup of thick Turkish coffee.
You might hear that Costa Rica is the most expensive destination in Central America, but with its incredible biodiversity, active volcanoes, natural hot springs and beautiful shorelines, you just can’t skip it. Keep your budget tight by camping, couchsurfing or staying at a backpacker’s dorm for just $10 a night. Eat at the “sodas,” or local Tico restaurants, where meals cost half of what they would at tourist spots. Just make sure you budget in activities, like the Corcovado National Park, where you can take an unforgettable hike through rainforests packed with 500 different tree species. Bring your camera to capture scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, jaguars, sloths, tamandua anteaters and the rare glass frog.
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