By far one of the most intimidating aspects of international travel is the cost. Take a look at a flight home for the holidays even just within the U.S., and the expense of travel can make your eyes blur over and your stomach drop (not to mention the toll it takes on your bank account).
We’ve all heard it, and honestly, most of us have said it too: I’d love to go abroad, but international travel is just too expensive. Affordability is a beyond-fair reason to restrict yourself — even when the cost is guaranteed to provide a life-altering adventure.
Nobody should be limited to their hometown, home state, home region, home country — whatever! — if their heart is yearning to see more. We’ve got the wanderlust bug too…we get you! That’s why showcasing the world’s most affordable cities seemed like not only a worthwhile mission, but a necessary one.
We want you to see that traipsing around the globe isn’t just a luxury of the independently wealthy; it’s an experience that everyone, no matter the budget, deserves. Take a minute to explore these least expensive cities in the world, and we promise you, you’ll find something that will make your heart flutter.
Here’s the scoop on some of the most affordable cities in the world:
9 most affordable cities in the world
1. Buenos Aires, Argentina
With the Argentinian economy in increasingly dire states, Buenos Aires has become one of the least expensive cities in the world. International explorers will be able to stretch their budget further, and the Argentinian economy will get a much-needed boost from the hospitality and tourism industries’ increased production. Plus, visiting this city isn’t only a matter of its affordability; Buenos Aires is fun.
Argentina’s capital city boasts lively and vibrant latino culture, complete with a tangy frenzy and a soccer obsession. Fresh produce markets, cafes replete with mouth-watering empanadas, extravagant nightclubs, and beers in the park can all be a part of your international experience, all at some of the lowest prices you’ll ever encounter. Even the city’s museum entrance fees are maxed out at $6, with several of them offering discounted days of the week.
2. Bucharest, Romania
For anyone who’s a fan of spooky monster stories and Dracula’s stronghold, a roadtrip through Transylvania might be echoing out your name. This country’s history extends in many more directions than tales to tell in the dark, though. Budget travelers will be enchanted by Romania’s medieval, cobblestone towns, looming castles and cathedrals, and picturesque, sheep-inhabited countrysides (do a quick search of the Transfăgărășan Road for a truly astounding glance at Romanian greenery).
Bucharest itself occupies a fully different role in the country’s vast history, where travelers can view massive, Communist-era structures and visit museums that provide education unlike anything they’ve encountered. One of the best parts of making this city your international destination? Romania is one of the few European countries with a currency other than the euro, so those who are traveling on a budget are sure to get more out of their dollar than most.
3. Taipei, Taiwan
Despite its location on the other side of the planet, Taipei is one of the best cities for brand new travelers because it’s host to two undeniably important features: it’s easy to navigate, and it’s cheap. Wifi is free throughout Taiwan — you read that correctly, free. So you’ll never need to worry about getting lost or being forced to spend money you don’t have in restaurants or cafes solely to bum some Internet.
Exploring the city is also made cheap and easy thanks to the incredibly efficient subway system that costs less than a dollar per trip. Taipei’s blend of modern cityscape, from the standard hustle and bustle of being a country capital known for its Bubble Tea, with lush scenery such as natural hot springs, make it a must-see Asian destination. And that’s on top of being one of the most affordable cities in the world! Enjoy street food and hostel stays for no more than a few dollars a day.
4. Puebla, Mexico
While you might have friends flocking to all-inclusive resorts in Cancun or Tulum (and while these places are certainly replete with their own charms), a journey to Mexico does not require a bulging wallet. In addition to the benefits of short, cost-effective flights and little-to-no chance of jetlag for North Americans, Puebla offers cheap and free activities, food, and sights in every colorful cranny. Locally-produced Talavera tiles adorn the city center, and churches and cathedrals are strewn throughout for beautiful days of endless exploration.
The “Star of Puebla,” the city’s iconic ferris wheel, is a necessary stop where you can enjoy the best views of the city for just 30 pesos per person. Oh, and while we’re talking affordability, we’d be remiss to not mention the food. Splurge on some of the country’s finest cuisine — and when we say splurge, we mean eat your heart out for under a dollar a meal. If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll be happy to know that the most famous mole in Mexico is located right here.
5. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Cambodia is an astounding destination for the enormous variety of travelers and travel-dreams it can host. The largest religious complex in the world, the famed Angkor What, requires a visit, but you can exit the more tourist-based, more costly town of Siem Reap soon after for a completely affordable journey abroad. Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, is host to delicious street food and gracious people, who only recently began recovery after a multi-decade genocide.
Pay a visit to the Killing Fields to learn about and pay respects to a humbling part of history, and rent an affordable motorbike to transport yourself to some of the world’s most stunning beaches. Southeast Asian culture is known for its welcome hosting, so you can save some funds by couchsurfing with locals who are eager to share their nation’s history along quaint Mekong River towns, or even pitch a hammock for a free night’s sleep on the beach beneath the stars.
6. Tbilisi, Georgia
Now is the time to visit this charming capital city in the Caucasus, as it’s currently one of the least expensive cities in the world…but the secret is sure to be out soon. The city’s infrastructure will be certain to entice your eye, reflecting the cobblestone streets of ancient Persian rule, Eastern Orthodox churches and traditions, and Soviet-era complexes and structures.
Cheap, if not free, walking tours are an excellent and exciting way to get immersed in the history of the city itself, yes, but the expansive tales of the Caucasus in general, too. Beyond its multifaceted architectural beauty, Tbilisi offers affordable excursions to the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea. Housing can be as cheap as $5 a night for a room in a hostel, and depending on the length of stay, some might be inclined to rent out an apartment for a more residential experience.
7. Accra, Ghana
Lucky for all of us, this lush, coastal West African capital is one of the world’s most affordable cities for westerners. We mean, really, really affordable. Think: eating for a full day at close to $3, or staying in a hotel, with your best friend, for $6.50.
Once you’re satiated and have slept, you are going to be overcome by the entertainment and soundscape of this city. Live reggae, jazz, and African music reverberate around the streets, and befriending locals is an easy way to be in-the-know about nightlife hotspots.
Street art, from traditional carvings to hand-painted, modern advertisements, add to the city’s ambiance and make for a free, active immersion into African culture and lifestyle.
8. Sucre, Bolivia
Bolivia is the budget-conscious adventurer’s dream. Home to mountains, jungles, and the largest percentage of indigenous people in South America, there will be no pause to the excitement while traveling here. Sucre, in particular, hosts dozens of parades, festivals, and cultural parties throughout the year, and its colonial architecture and manicured parks allow for peaceful beauty on the off-days.
Not to mention, this is one of the least expensive cities in the world. Those passing through can survive on under $25 a day. Those who fall in love with the city and can’t bring themselves to leave can live fairly lavishly for $800 a month,meaning food, housing, entertainment…all of it. Oh, and this is one of the greatest cities in the world to learn Spanish, with private tutors costing $7 an hour.
9. Lviv, Ukraine
In and out of conflict, some parts of Ukraine might not always be the #1 travel destination in Europe that comes to mind, but that doesn’t mean the country as a whole should be excluded. Lviv, located near Ukraine’s border with Poland, offers the beauty of Europe at some of the continent’s cheapest prices. Fresh produce can be purchased at markets for 50 cents, and a complete restaurant meal won’t exceed four dollars.
East meets West in this city, where the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire lives on, and ruins of medieval cathedrals provide incredible views of the country’s greenery. If you want to stay a while and explore other parts of the country, like Odessa (a coastal city on the Black Sea), you can hop a 60 cent train, after budgeting for a modern, safe apartment at 200 euros per month. We wouldn’t joke about prices this good!
Ready to travel the least expensive cities in the world?
Are you convinced that some of the cheapest cities for travel are also the best destinations yet?! There was a time when only the wealthiest could see the world by packing up their trunks and taking to the sea. Luckily, that exclusivity for international exploration is a thing of the entirely far-back past.
We may not all be able to budget for exploring every single city in the world, but that would be a little extreme, no?! Plus, some of the world’s most affordable cities end up being the least traversed, and in many ways, the most unique and authentic…on top of inexpensive. Sure sounds like a win-win that we’ve got on our hands!
Most importantly, don’t be discouraged by the continent, the time zone, the flight duration — there is an affordable destination out there for you, that will not only fit your budget, but fit your lifestyle and fulfill your wanderlust dreams.
Now that we’ve got you started with a list of some of the most affordable cities in the world, find your fit, and start budgeting! We recommend doing a bit more research, compiling some spreadsheets, opening a FundMyTravel page to get the word out to your family and friends, and getting your adventure started!
This article was written by Samantha Harper. Samantha’s quest to learn about her family heritage in Prague ignited the travel flame within her. A Wisconsin native and Pitt alumna, Samantha’s insatiable appetite for the world led her into an International Relations master’s program in Italy. Still not feeling like she’d seen enough, she finagled her way into spending a summer in Spain and teaching for a year in Thailand. She is (temporarily) settled in Washington, D.C.