5 Best Budget-Friendly Countries & Cheap Vacation Spots for Americans

I once had a good friend who loved to travel. She went on to study abroad across the world and when she came back, she returned with a newfound love of kebabs, some great memories, and thousands of dollars in credit card debt. 

If you're someone like me (or SiteSee founder, Kelsey), it is incredibly hard to stay within the United States for any more than a year. And without having to be said, the COVID-19 lockdowns haven't made this any easier.

Preparing to Travel Again

As COVID-19 restrictions are loosening and Americans are allowed to venture away from the land of the free and home of the brave, it may be a great time to plan where you'll go and how much you're willing to spend.

Know your budget

Before you start jet-setting over to Singapore, you should know how much money you have to spend on a trip. Even better, start planning for a future trip right now! Setting aside a couple hundred bucks a month can allow you to take a fabulous trip anywhere within 3 to 12 months of saving. 

When budgeting for a trip, you can check airline prices far in advance (some airlines let you look more than a year out), find rental car prices, look at AirBnB rental prices, and get a good idea on how much food will cost by checking sites like numbeo and reading travel blogs.

The closer to home, the cheaper the flight (usually)

Many Americans prefer to stay close to home, which is why destinations like Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica are usually at the top of the wish list for American travelers. Not only are these countries very cheap to vacation in, they are also a relatively easy to get to, so they tend to have flights ranging from only a couple hundred dollars up to $500. 

Safety over everything

In a perfect world, everyone could travel anywhere and be perfectly safe. But, this isn't a perfect world. So be sure to check the safety rankings of a country before you go. This can be done either through your government's travel website or with sites like nomadlist

The 5 Best Countries to Visit When On a Budget

This is not a ranking of the best countries to go to in the world. Instead, look at it as a well-curated list of my personal favorites. Now let's dive in!

1. Colombia 

Over the past decade, Colombia has seen a massive resurgence in their travel industry. Cities like Medellin are now rivaling cities like Chiang Mai, Thailand as the new hub for digital nomads and remote workers. 

Colombia has delicious food, the best quality coffee in the world, and a mix of landscapes like beaches in Cartagena, mountains in Bogota, and lush valleys in Medellin.

Here's what you can expect to pay when in Colombia:

  • Meals at inexpensive restaurants: $3.36
  • A pint of domestic beer: $1.12
  • A cappuccino: $1.18
  • A ticket on the metro: $0.69
  • A 1 bedroom apartment in the city center (monthly): $296.52
  • Round-trip flight from LAX to Medellin, Colombia (in May): Around $350
  • Round-trip flight from JFK to Medellin, Colombia (in May): Around $430
  • Round-trip flight from DFW to Medellin, Colombia (in May): Around $300

2. Mexico

Mexico has gotten a somewhat bad rep from many Americans for some time, much of which is undeserved (in my opinion). Cities like San Miguel De Allende, Mexico City, Oaxaca, and their coastal gems like Puerto Vallarta are not only safe, but very affordable.

Besides being some of the nicest people on earth, Mexicans tend to make the most ridiculously delicious food (which you already know if you’re an American). 

SiteSee Founder Kelsey and I in San Miguel De Allende.

Here's what you can expect to pay when in Mexico:

  • Meals at inexpensive restaurants: $4.81
  • A pint of domestic beer: $1.44
  • A cappuccino: $2.12
  • A ticket on the metro: $0.48
  • A 1 bedroom apartment in the city center (monthly): $336.92
  • Round-trip flight from LAX to Mexico City (in May): Around $230
  • Round-trip flight from JFK to Mexico City (in May): Around $350
  • Round-trip flight from DFW to Mexico City (in May): Around $240

3. Thailand

Let's go a little farther from home. Thailand is one of the best countries on earth. Friendly people, world-class massages, and an onslaught of western hippies pretending to understand spirituality while they take copious amounts of drugs on a beach. 

Thailand is a pretty long country, so you have a handful of different scenes depending on what you want. You have the massive bustling city of Bangkok in the center of the country, the cool mountains of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the bay coasts of places like Pattaya (not my pick) and Hua Hin, and the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui. 

Added bonus: Thailand has great coffee since they're next to the second largest exporter of coffee in the world, Vietnam. 

Here's what you can expect to pay when in Thailand:

  • Meals at inexpensive restaurants: $1.94
  • A pint of domestic beer: $2.26
  • A cappuccino: $1.94
  • A ticket on the metro: $0.81
  • A 1 bedroom apartment in the city center (monthly): $432.65
  • Round-trip flight from LAX to Bangkok (in May): Around $650
  • Round-trip flight from JFK to Bangkok (in May): Around $700
  • Round-trip flight from DFW to Bangkok (in May): Around $900

4. Costa Rica

Back to the Americas we go. Costa Rica has everything your heart could desire: jungles, solid surf spots, warm weather, and most important to SiteSee's founder Kelsey, sloths.

Costa Rica is highly visited by Americans due to its close proximity to us, its cheap prices, friendly people, and plethora of natural beauty. 

Here's what you can expect to pay when in Costa Rica:

  • Meals at inexpensive restaurants: $7.00
  • A pint of domestic beer: $2.46
  • A cappuccino: $2.53
  • A ticket on the metro: $0.82
  • A 1 bedroom apartment in the city center (monthly): $501.20
  • Round-trip flight from LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica(in May): Around $300
  • Round-trip flight from JFK to San Jose, Costa Rica (in May): Around $320
  • Round-trip flight from DFW to San Jose, Costa Rica (in May): Around $280

5. Argentina 

Alright, Argentina is kind of a wild-card. It's not the cheapest to get to from the United States, but their prices are rock bottom for almost everything.

Why? Argentina is currently experiencing some of the worst inflation on the planet. Their currency, the Argentine Peso, is inflating at 53.8% PER YEAR. To put this in perspective, the United States Dollar is inflating at 1.81%. 

Thankfully, Argentina is a big country, packed with amazing sights, cities, and eats. Their capital, Buenos Aires, rivals some of the biggest and best cities in the world.

Here's what you can expect to pay when in Argentina:

  • Meals at inexpensive restaurants: $7.68
  • A pint of domestic beer: $1.52
  • A cappuccino: $1.74
  • A ticket on the metro: $0.33
  • A 1 bedroom apartment in the city center (monthly): $259.80
  • Round-trip flight from LAX to Buenos Aires (in May): Around $680
  • Round-trip flight from JFK to Buenos Aires (in May): Around $680
  • Round-trip flight from DFW to Buenos Aires (in May): Around $700

Now, Get Out There!

Now you have a few more ideas of where you can travel to once the world returns to normal and the costs of traveling to those places. Always remember to budget your trip, and always over-budget for things like food, random expenses, and paying the police for illegally riding a moped (Thailand).

Anxious about the money part? Don't know how to get on the right financial track so you can travel without worry? Sign up for a free money coaching consultation with me!

 

About Nate

Nate is the founder of Green Avalanche Coaching where he helps his clients take control over their finances and improve their relationship with money. If you're looking to learn more about how Nate can help you achieve your financial goals, you can book a free consultation here. And for some light stalking, you can follow his (super entertaining & funny) Instagram here.

  

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