20 Cheap (And Safe) International Travel Destinations

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With travel becoming even more expensive in 2023 due to fuel prices, inflation, and labor shortages, travelers are considering international destinations where they can get the most bang for their buck.

Data shows more expensive countries are generally considered safer travel destinations. Of the countries WorldData.info rated that fall under the Level 1 travel advisory, 31.7% are more expensive than the U.S. Conversely, only 9.8% of countries with a less safe travel advisory are pricier than the US.

However, many safe and cost-effective options are also available for U.S. travelers. Asian countries, for example, account for seven out of the top 10 destinations on this list, with various locations in the Central, Southeast, and East Asia regions.

#20. Hungary

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– Cost index: 42.7% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 360.29 Hungarian forints to $1
– Region: Europe

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is also the country’s top tourist destination. The city is known for its thermal baths, spas, and various museums, religious sites, and theaters. Budapest is also home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Hungarian House of Parliament.

The building took 17 years to complete and showcased local craftsmanship using only Hungarian raw materials (except for eight giant granite columns). This landmark, located on the banks of the Danube River, draws an estimated 700,000 visitors each year at about $28 per person.

#19. Mexico

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– Cost index: 45.3% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 18.50 Mexican pesos to $1
– Region: North America

According to the State Department, the Campeche and Yucatán states are the safest areas of Mexico for tourists. These areas feature plenty of free activities, including beautiful beaches, mangrove forests, and old villages.

Visitors can explore ancient Mayan sites like Uxmal or Chichén Itzá and caverns dating back to 800 B.C. at Grutas de Loltún. Those who prefer to explore local art and culture will find plenty to keep them busy in the Yucatán capital of Mérida.

#18. Poland

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– Cost index: 48.9% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 4.40 Polish zloty to $1
– Region: Europe

European Best Destinations named Poland’s capital Europe’s best destination in 2023. Warsaw beat out 400 other European cities for the title. Warsaw’s Old Town offers several popular attractions, like the Royal Castle and the Museum of Warsaw.

Kraków, the former capital of Poland, is another popular Polish destination. Its historic center boasts the largest market square in Europe. Kraków is also known for its art museums and galleries, including the Princes Czartoryski Museum, where visitors can view Leonardo da Vinci’s famed “Lady With An Ermine” painting for a $9 admission fee.

#17. Montenegro

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– Cost index: 49.8% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 0.94 euros to $1
– Region: Europe

Montenegro is a small but beautiful Mediterranean nation bordering Croatia. The only country on this list that uses the euro, Montenegro has grown to offer high-end hotels and restaurants.

Visitors can save their euros by relaxing here as an alternative to Spain, soaking in Montenegro’s stunning bays and rugged natural beauty. Budva is a popular destination with stunning beaches and views alongside a town full of history. Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also offers outdoor enthusiasts an exhilarating hiking and biking experience around the country’s tallest peak.

#16. Brunei

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– Cost index: 51.1% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 1.35 Brunei dollars to $1
– Region: Southeast Asia

Brunei is a small country on the island of Borneo where visitors can lounge on one of the many beaches dotting the 100-mile coastline or dive to explore coral reefs and shipwrecks. Almost three-quarters of the country is rainforest, which travelers can explore for free at reserves like the Luagan Lalak Forest Recreation Park, a tranquil spot famed for its serene, mirrorlike waters accessed by a network of wooden walkways.

For those needing an end-of-the-year fix, the country’s Brunei December Festival also offers a long list of events, including food, entertainment, and celebrations of Islamic culture in the last month of the year.

#15. Bulgaria

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– Cost index: 52.5% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 1.83 Bulgarian leva to $1
– Region: Europe

Bulgaria offers seaside resorts that rival those in Western Europe, but with more competitive prices. While visiting this Balkan nation, travelers can also take in the rich local history through its ornate churches, religious art, and ancient ruins.

Some of the most popular attractions include the 300 B.C. Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, the Bachkovo Monastery that features 19th-century hand-painted frescoes, and an ancient Roman amphitheater dating back to the second-century reign of Emperor Trajan.

#14. Romania

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– Cost index: 53% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 4.62 Romanian lei to $1
– Region: Europe

Romania is the least expensive European country for U.S. travelers on this list, offering a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the country’s national parks throughout the Carpathian Mountains, the beauty of the Danube delta for wildlife and birdwatching, and the beach resorts along the Black Sea coast.

There are well-preserved medieval towns and ancient castles for travelers more interested in local history. One of the most popular is Transylvania’s Bran Castle, best known as the setting of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Visitors can tour this medieval fortress and castle for $13 or less, depending on the season.

#13. Lesotho

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– Cost index: 60.7% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 18.24 Lesotho loti to $1
– Region: Africa

The Southern African country of Lesotho is an excellent option for travelers seeking outdoor exploration and adventure on a budget. Visitors can hike through the Bokong Nature Reserve, featuring a stunning waterfall and guided pony tours, or through the nation’s most popular preserve, Ts’ehlanyane National Park. Tourists looking to immerse themselves in the local culture should visit the Royal Archives and Museum and the Cultural Village, which educates visitors on Basotho history.

#12. Malaysia

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– Cost index: 61.2% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 4.52 Malaysian ringgits to $1
– Region: Southeast Asia

Bordering Brunei, which came in at #16 on this list, Malaysia offers affordable tourist experiences. Kuala Lumpur features big city attractions like the tallest twin towers in the world, a sky bridge, and the family-friendly Sunway Lagoon Theme Park.

The 400-million-year-old Tempurung Cave in Gopeng, Perak, provides more adventurous travelers with guided tours lasting up to 3.5 hours for $5 or less. The Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sabah is another popular natural attraction, with trails weaved through the jungle and a steel canopy walkway suspended 82 feet, perfect for birdwatching.

#11. Paraguay

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– Cost index: 61.4% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 7,200 Paraguayan guaranis to $1
– Region: South America

Although it may not have as many flashy attractions as the surrounding countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia, Paraguay is just as rich in South American history and culture. The Museo Jesuítica de Santa Fe highlights local Jesuit history through religious carvings, and the Panteón de los Héroes holds the remains of key historical figures.

Those seeking a unique experience can arrange private trips to see the flamingos of Chaco Lodge during the dry season for less than $14 per vehicle, and visitors can even camp on the nature reserve.

#10. Thailand

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– Cost index: 61.6% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 34.81 Thai bahts to $1
– Region: Southeast Asia

Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, is rich with historical and religious sites that tourists won’t want to miss. One example is Wat Pho, a grand royal temple considered Thailand’s first university, which costs less than $6 for admission. The northern province of Phuket is another popular Thai destination, full of breathtaking beaches and an active nightlife.

#9. Cambodia

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– Cost index: 63.4% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 4,045 Cambodian riels to $1
– Region: Southeast Asia

Cambodia offers a range of activities and attractions that are sure to meet all traveler preferences. Rural areas feature rice paddies, fishing villages, and the Cardamom Mountains, which tourists can admire for free while enjoying the great outdoors.

For those more interested in urban life, cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have a variety of cultural attractions, along with plenty of dining and entertainment options. Cambodia’s top attraction, however, is the temple of Angkor Wat, where visitors can spend hours touring the largest religious structure in the world.

#8. Mongolia

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– Cost index: 64.6% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 3,538 Mongolian tugriks to $1
– Region: East Asia

Mongolia, the only East Asian country on this list, is known for the vast beauty of the Gobi Desert. Visitors can climb enormous sand dunes at Khongoryn Els, search for wildlife and dinosaur fossils at Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, or marvel at the great glacier in Yolyn Am Gorge.

Mongolia also has numerous active monasteries open to the public. Erdene Zuu Khiid, the first Buddhist monastery in the country, allows visitors to explore the grounds for free and offers guided tours of the 16th-century temple for less than $1.50.

#7. Suriname

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– Cost index: 65% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 34.48 Surinamese dollars to $1
– Region: South America

Suriname is South America’s smallest country, but it has a surprising variety of historic attractions and a growing ecotourism industry. The Brownsberg Nature Park, set within a lush jungle, is home to various monkey species and is the perfect spot for birdwatchers. Adventurous tourists can camp there for as little as $1.50 or rent group lodges from $3.50.

Another must-see attraction includes Paramaribo’s Central Market, which has a separate market of herbs and mysterious concoctions where no photography is allowed. Also worth checking out is the 18th-century Fort Zeelandia and Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral-Basilica, which claims to be the Western Hemisphere’s largest wooden building.

#6. Vietnam

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– Cost index: 65.6% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 23,675 Vietnamese dong to $1
– Region: Southeast Asia

Two of Vietnam’s top destinations are Hanoi, a northern city known for its architecture and museums, and Ho Chi Minh City, a bustling southern cultural hub. The capital city of Hanoi is rich with historical attractions like the nearly 1,000-year-old One Pillar Pagoda and the much newer Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, each offering admission for less than $1.50.

In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), tourists can enjoy boutique shopping, delicious street foods, and motorbike tours of the city.

#5. Angola

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– Cost index: 66.7% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 507.50 Angolan kwanzas to $1
– Region: Africa

Angola welcomes tourists with vast stretches of beach in the capital city of Luanda, as well as Benguela and Namibe. While in Luanda, visit the city’s oldest surviving building, Fortaleza de São Miguel, a 1576 fortress that now houses a museum tourists can enjoy for the low price of $2.50. Angola is also committed to preserving local land and wildlife through reserves like the National Park of Iona in Namibe, where visitors can see zebra, springbok, and even cheetahs roaming free.

Travelers should note that, since October 2022, the British Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office has advised against nonessential travel to the province of Cabinda (excluding Cabinda City) and Angola’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

#4. Georgia

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– Cost index: 67.8% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 2.58 Georgian laris to $1
– Region: Middle East

Georgia, the only Middle Eastern country to make this list, offers a lot to travelers—beautiful mountain views and lush green valleys to a growing scene of bars, restaurants, and clubs, among other features. Those interested in history will enjoy the ancient cave cities of Vardzia and Uplistsikhe or the unmissable hilltop Tsminda Sameba Cathedral with its gold-covered cross and dome.

For an admission fee of less than $6, tourists can visit a museum about the life of dictator Joseph Stalin in his birthplace, Gori. Travelers considering a trip to Georgia should be mindful of political tensions within the country. As of October 2022, the U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Travelers should also be aware of the potential impacts of Russian efforts to destabilize the area.

#3. Bhutan

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– Cost index: 70% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 82.01 Bhutanese ngultrums to $1
– Region: Southeast Asia

The Tourism Council of Bhutan previously required tourists to have a full-time guide, use pre-approved itineraries, and check in at immigration checkpoints; however, the country has loosened these restrictions. Although Bhutan requires guides for some attractions or to venture outside the cities of Thimphu and Paro, this new approach allows tourists to explore more freely, absorbing the local culture, food, and shopping.

Visitors will also enjoy the country’s many newly restored attractions, including the centuries-old Trans-Bhutan Trail and the National Museum of Bhutan, with an admission fee of just over $6.

#2. Kyrgyzstan

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– Cost index: 74.7% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 87.42 Kyrgystani Som to $1
– Region: Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan—dubbed the “land of celestial mountains” because of its Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges—features various ways to explore the country’s beauty and nomadic lifestyle inexpensively. Visitors can take tours by bike, horseback, jeep, and motorbike, while more adventurous travelers may consider hiking, mountain climbing, or white-water rafting. To learn more about the country’s history, tourists can visit sites along the Great Silk Road, the ancient trade route that connected the East to the West.

Travelers to Kyrgyzstan should steer clear of its border with Tajikistan, however. The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for the area since November 2022.

#1. Uzbekistan

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– Cost index: 78.2% cheaper than the U.S.
– Exchange rate: 11,405 Uzbekistani Som to $1
– Region: Central Asia

Uzbekistan, another country along the Great Silk Road, offers travelers a rich history of Islamic culture. Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in central Asia and home to a must-see attraction: the Registan. This area served as the town’s trading area during medieval times, and visitors can now access its mosque and three beautifully designed madrassas (Muslim schools) for just over $2.50.

The 2,500-year-old city of Bukhara is another worthy stop, where travelers will appreciate the architecture of its mosques, bathhouses, and the Kalon Minaret, a towering structure over 150 feet tall with 14 exquisite ornamental bands.

6 Comments on "20 Cheap (And Safe) International Travel Destinations"

  • México is safe? Sure parts of this very beautiful and fascinating country are fine. But do be careful in many popular spots. Makes you wonder about the others. And I don’t think Suriname is that cheap.

  • As someone who has been to nearly 90% of these destinations, I’ll add this consideration to the “cost” calculation: You’re going to find a lot more variety of things to see and do in urban destinations like Budapest (Hungary) than KL or even Tbilisi. Dining out in BP is going to be better value for money when you consider quality and variety. Hungary doesn’t have the natural beauty of SE Asia or the much larger Mexico. As for safety, I’m writing from Ukraine at the moment (live and work) and most of the country is safer than several of the nations on the list. Don’t go by the DoS recommendations. Check them, but do more research and speak to people with experience. Ukraine is open, so if you’re thinking about Poland or Hungary, do a short trip to L’viv and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll feel better for the experience.

  • Your article lost all credibility when you cited Mexico as safe.
    Sorry. It’s more lawless than Detroit now. You’ll never see me there.

  • Whomever wrote this list is delusional. Mexico? ANGOLA??? And since when is Georgia in the Middle East? All the ‘Stan countries mentioned are a risk too, though probably not the same type of risk as Mexico. I’d like to know if the author has actually BEEN to ANY of them?

  • I m born and living in Kuala.Lumpur..I dont think KL.is as safe as it is if compared to a few decade.ago.Lots of crime happens everyday.I hv alrdy travel almost the whole of South East Asia & Asia and i would say among the best and safest cities to travel and stay is Taiwan, HK, South Korea and Japan where crimes is almost non existing.

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