10 Cheap Countries That Are Perfect For First-Time Backpackers

Published 2 years ago on September 13, 2017
By Hugo

For many young people, backpacking is almost a rite of passage because it allows you to visit countries without having everything arranged for you by your parents. That said, with greater independence comes added responsibility so if you're a newbie to the backpacking scene we recommend starting things off in more tourist-friendly countries. 

Pixabay/ mariamichelle

Not only do they cater for young and intrepid travelers, but they are also relatively cheap so here are 10 countries that we think are just right for first-time backpackers.

1. Nepal

Nepal is a spectacular backpacking destination for those on a budget and has many English-speaking travellers, so you won't ever feel alone and isolated. Best of all, it's a destination which boasts everything, from the breathtaking sights of Mount Everest to the awe-inspiring tranquil wonders of the Garden of Dreams.

However, for those wanting to experience Nepal's livelier side, head to Birgunj, the nation’s commercial capital. You'll find a plethora of great street food stands as well as being able to marvel at the traditional tourist attractions like the Durga Temple. Or, if you have an urge to channel your inner zen, a venture to Lumbini, where Lord Buddha was born 2500 years ago, is a must.

2. Thailand

It would be wrong not to include this wonderful country on our list. Steeped in history, and nicknamed The Land of Smiles for its friendly and majority Buddhist population, a backpacking adventure in Thailand is a must, especially for those keen to get away from the stresses and strains of working life and seek a better understanding of themselves.

Bearing this in mind, vast areas of the country are increasingly becoming party enclaves, but if you stay off the beaten track and explore the less commercialized islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Chang, you'll adapt to a way of life that might make you want to open a small bar and never return home.

3. Peru

This verdant paradise of a country has become a haven for backpackers in recent years without suffering from the seedy commercialization that has tainted many of Thailand's once calm and peaceful islands. Unlike Thailand, however, the locals don't speak much English so brushing up on your Spanish before you depart will make your life that little bit easier. 

Most backpackers stay in the capital Lima for the first few days of their trip and then head to the Inca trail of Manu Pichu.  The partying beach town of Máncora is another popular destination, and we highly recommend it. 

4. Costa Rica

If you're looking for inner-answers as well as an adventure, then Costa Rica should help you in both regards. Fabled for its appearance, Costa Rica's scenery will likely see you spending the majority of your time outdoors with hot springs, luscious jungles, pristine beaches and various activities like zip-lining and kayaking keeping you entertained.

Best of all, Costa Rica is one of the safest places to visit in Central America and is filled with English speaking expats, most of whom will be happy to help with any queries. With all that said, Costa Rica is also the most expensive country in Central America, but you can find backpacking hostels that charge as little as $10 a night for a room.

5. Indonesia

Indonesia is backpacking mecca because like Thailand, it houses some of the most paradisiacal places on Earth without costing and arm and a leg to visit. Moreover, there are thousands of islands to explore. Some 13 to 18 thousand, to be more precise.

Of course with so much choice, it can be hard to have a plan of action, but rather than head straight to Bali, Sumatra is a good place to start, with dozens of affordable huts dotted across the stunning coastline. Better still, Sumatra has some of the best wildlife in Indonesia, with the baying sounds from wild monkeys a perennial fixture on the island.

6. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an excellent place to visit because you can have fun and spend less than $20 a day if you decide to immerse yourself in their culture and live like a local. To do this, simply eat at the local cafes, take public transportation and stay in cheap hostels and seaside cabanas. But for the love of God, avoid sightseeing packages.

Regarding the country itself, national parks and archaeological sites dominate much of this tropical country, but if you want to experience a beach like no other, head south to the market town of Pottuvil where you will stumble upon the glistening and golden sands of Arugam Bay. 

7. India

The former crown jewel of the British Empire is laden in remarkable beauty, and the even better news is that backpacking across the country is incredibly inexpensive. 

In fact, student hostels can be found in all the major cities though you'll have to slum it, with many being bereft of hot water and air conditioning.

However, cheap accommodation is all the more worth it when you realise how multifaceted the country is, with everything from the pristine beaches of Goa and Kerala to the Himalayan Mountains and majestic Taj Mahal of Agra on display. What's more, the cuisine is some of the best in the world, though travellers are advised to be careful when purchasing from street vendors due to hygiene issues, so it's best to eat at places that attract the most customers. 

8. Nicaragua

While it's likely you've never entertained the idea of backpacking across Nicaragua; the volcanic island is a budget-friendly country and is also a great place to volunteer.

Located in Central America, the weather is good all year round, and as the island is small it can be seen relatively quickly, but before you do anything else, we recommend visiting the colonial buildings of Granada and taking in the breathtaking and dazzling blue waters of Laguna de Apoyo.

9. Albania

Much like Nicaragua, Albania isn't exactly synonymous with backpacking, but that said, the hidden pearl of Europe is a much cheaper alternative to nearby Greece and Italy. 

Like Greece and Italy, Albania also possesses gorgeous Mediterranean coastlines while its capital, Tirana, is steeped in history, with most of the culture and architecture inspired by their past ties with the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires and you'll notice this even more if you reach the top of Mount Dajti where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Best of all, Albania has specially designated backpacker hostels that run from as little as €9-€15 a night.  

10. Turkey

Known as the bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey isn't too expensive which is all well and good as we recommend you save most of your money for the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul's world famous market that goes back to the 15th century.

Regularly attracting thousands of customers, the Grand Bazaar offers the perfect opportunity to absorb the capital's eccentric charms amidst the market's spectacular colors.

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