World's Cheapest Destinations

GoNOMAD Book Excerpt: The World’s Cheapest Destinations:
21 Countries Where Your Dollars Are Worth a Fortune

The World's Cheapest DestinationsTim Leffel is an internationally recognized expert on traveling well for less; in fact he wrote the book, now in a newly-updated fourth Edition

Find out where to get a four-dollar massage while you lie on the beach drinking from a coconut, where to get a decent bottle of wine for two or three bucks, or where to get a beachfront room on a tropical island for under ten dollars. Order today and find out how to make your travel dollar go further. Then travel well with less money in the cheapest vacation destinations on each continent!

Chapter One

Yes, traveling overseas can be expensive, but it sure doesn’t have to be. The key to living it up abroad is not airline specials, discount hotel vouchers, or finding the cheapest restaurant in Rome or Paris. The way to really travel well without spending your life savings is to go to where your first world dollars, euros, or pounds are worth a fortune.

A taxi ride from the airport to the center of town is $10 in Quito and $15 in Kuala Lumpur, but can hit $120 in Milan and $180 in Tokyo. For the price of a bed in a tiny dorm in Tokyo or Venice you can get a beautiful double room in a hotel with a pool in many parts of Southeast Asia. For the price of simple dinner for two in Western Europe, you could pig out for a whole week in Indonesia, Nepal or India. For the $9 you’d pay for one beer in a bar in Oslo, you could buy a round of beers for yourself and at least eight friends in Panama City, Sofia, Saigon, or Brno.

Most travel books won’t tell you that. They’ll tell you things such as how to shave 40 dollars off the price of a flight, how to find promotional hotel deals, or how you can save 25 percent on European trains by booking in advance. Guidebooks will tell you what a certain country or region will cost, but they seldom compare those costs to other destinations. Even by scouring the Web for days on end, you’d be hard pressed to find any resource that will tell you where the cheapest countries are and which places offer the best value.

While all the practical advice on budgeting and finding a good deal is useful, it doesn’t help so much if the destination is expensive to start with. If you’re worried about money the whole time you’re traveling or are thinking about how much your dinner is setting you back while you’re eating it, you’re probably not enjoying the experience very much. A $50 “bargain” meal in Paris is still $50, which will feed you for a week in the many of the countries featured here—or get you a romantic dinner for two in the best restaurant in town.

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How much will I spend?

Estimating travel costs is difficult since there are a lot of variables to consider: how much you are moving around, what class of transportation you are taking, and even how much you eat. In general, a couple can travel around the countries in this book for $500 to $1,500 a month at the budget end, or anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 a month staying in mid-range hotels and taking the best available ground transportation. Compare that to what you normally spend for a one-week vacation at some beach resort or in Paris—or even what you spend just to pay your regular bills at home. Some homeowner travelers I have met in my journeys were renting out their house or condo while they were traveling and were spending less than the profit that was coming in!

Tim's Cheapest Destinations

Czech Republic

Your mileage may and will vary of course. I know two couples who recently returned from yearlong round-the-world trips. One couple was frugal and spent around $14,000 including flights. The other couple left with loads of cash in the bank and spent $85,000. Obviously they were traveling in different styles, but also the first couple visited 11 countries and moved relatively slowly. The other couple was on a whirlwind tour and landed in 40 different countries. Different priorities, a different level of comfort, and different goals—plus more time in Europe in the latter case.

There are several ironies that work in your favor when you travel on the cheap though. First, many of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights are located in the world’s cheapest countries. Think of all the great man-made monuments: The Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Petra, Borobudur, Aya Sofia, Ankor Wat, Tikal, and all the Roman ruins scattered outside Rome. Or if you prefer natural wonders, you can explore the most unspoiled rain forests, go white water rafting on raging rivers, hike up volcanoes, kayak around some of the world’s prettiest beaches, or go trekking in the Himalayas (just to name a few).

Second, the less money you spend in any given location, the more likely you are to interact with the people who actually live there instead of just other tourists. You’ll also get much better deals on everything than your “Europe in Seven Days” counterparts. These vacationers seal themselves in familiar chain hotels, travel in packs, and do everything in a hurry, including their shopping. With a little bit of effort, you can spend a fraction of what they do and have a better time as well.

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If you visit the destinations listed in this guide, you’ll eat great meals, experience mind-blowing things, meet people you’ll never forget, and come back with photos that’ll amaze your friends and family—probably for less than you spend each month just to put a roof over your head. If you work, volunteer, or study abroad, you’ll spend even less and get the education of a lifetime.

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What’s the Catch?

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” the saying goes. Another saying is, “everything in life is a trade-off,” which is probably more apt for this situation. In essence, these countries are cheap because they’re not nearly as rich as first-world nations such as Japan, the U.S., Canada, and most of Western Europe.

As a result, at times you’ll surely encounter inept and corrupt government officials, you’ll find that departure times are rarely more than rough estimates, you often
can’t drink the tap water, and you certainly won’t have the vast choices and conveniences you’re used to at home. You’ll also find scary bathrooms at times. You may need shots to prevent scarier diseases. You’ll probably find the idea of renting a car and playing chicken with the local highway drivers to be a bit too adventurous.

Each negative usually has a corresponding positive, however. You won’t find miles of bland strip malls and parking lots. You’ll be forced to try new food and customs, some of which you’ll end up really liking. You’ll learn something about other religions and traditions that doesn’t come from a textbook or a news sound bite. You’ll read and hear news with a whole different perspective. And you’ll see your own country through others’ eyes—something it wouldn’t hurt our elected leaders to do once in a while.

Last, you’ll appreciate what you have more and realize that most of the world’s people lead happy lives having just a fraction of what we spend our money on. Even as a backpacker, you’ll spend more freely than they can dream of spending, so you might feel downright rich for the first time in your life.


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