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One of the hardest parts of planning any gap year is saving and sticking to your budget. The last thing you want is to visit the first three countries on your list and then find you have no money to continue your trip! To help any backpackers on a budget, here are our top 10 cheap gap year destinations to ensure you can explore the world without breaking the bank.
One of Southeast Asia’s least developed and therefore cheapest countries, Cambodia has a lot to offer any traveller. Most people visit Cambodia just to see the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat, which is enough in itself, but Cambodia also offers some fantastic beaches and the cities of Battambang and Phnom Penh. However, the main thing all travellers to Cambodia really remember is the people. Cambodia has a rich and but turbulent history full of bloodshed, political upheaval and poverty, but the optimistic Cambodian spirit and culture remains strong, meaning that every visitor receives a warm welcome.
Budapest is quickly becoming one of the top European city break destinations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it on a budget. Although prices in the city can be expensive, beyond the capital you can find quaint villages, rolling hills and the warm waters of Lake Balaton. Head back to the capital to wander the streets, take in the beautifully historic architecture and don’t forget to indulge in a thermal bath or two!
Backpackers can easily travel Mexico on around £21 per day – if you do your research and plan ahead. Hostels cost around £6 per day, and there is deliciously cheap street food on every corner to make sure you don’t go hungry! Budget conscious gap year travellers should avoid more expensive places like Cancun and Cabo, and instead opt for lesser known beach towns like Tulum, Zihuatenejo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Escondido to make their money go further.
Want a taste of Africa but don’t fancy/can’t afford the long flight? Then Morocco is the perfect destination for you. Morocco is just a quick and inexpensive ferry ride from Spain, making it easily accessible, plus it offers a network of cheap hostels and affordable riads. The best thing to do in Morocco is explore the markets, take in the culture and enjoy the beautiful architecture – making it a great budget destination. Make sure you save some budget for traditional souvenirs from the many souks (don’t forget to barter, the locals will expect it), plus coffees or mint tea while you people watch.
Number one on Lonely Planet’s Best Value 2017 Destination list, Nepal is finally getting back on its feet following the earthquake in 2015. Backpacking the Himalayas has always been a popular bucket list choice for Nepal, but places like Lumbini, Birgunj and Nepalgunj are also well worth a visit for beautiful temples and excellent trekking opportunities. Wherever you choose to go, you’ll get a warm welcome from tourists, who will be grateful for the income you’re bringing to the local community.
Ranked best value destination in the world by the Post Office’s 2017 Holiday Money Report, a basket of general holiday items (including drinks, sunscreen and insect repellent) would cost you £33.36 in Portugal, compared against £90.95 in France! For real value, head to the beautiful city of Porto which offers affordable flights, food and accommodation. During your trip ride the vintage trams, visit the inexpensive museums and make sure you book a cheap wine tasting and tour in one of the many wine caves.
Featuring in ABTA’s top 10 ‘most watch’ destinations for 2017, South Africa really does offer something for everyone without breaking the budget. Despite the long haul flight, South Africa is relatively cheap to get to (if you shop around), plus costs for thinks like food and accommodation are very affordable. This will free up some budget for the amazing array of activities you can choose from, think surfing, jungle trekking, safaris and shark diving! Again, make sure you shop around to find properly licenced companies who offer fair prices.
There is a reason Thailand is one of the most popular Backpacker and Gap Year destinations each year, it offers beautiful temples, cheap food and drink, jungles, amazing sky bars and world-famous parties. There are parts of the Thailand which have become extremely tourists, and where tourists go the prices will naturally increase, so make sure you arrange a mix of experiences (e.g. a locally run jungle trek and full moon parties) to tick everything off your list and save budget.
Much like Thailand, there are parts of the Philippines which are more touristy and expensive, but there are also parts any budget gap year traveller can visit. Palawan, for example, has beautifully diverse landscapes to explore, and amazing opportunities for beach hopping, snorkelling and cave exploring. Unlike the more popular Boracay, Palawan is not a party island, meaning you can fill your evenings with relaxed conversation and cheap beer, rather than expensive bars or clubs.
Another ABTA ‘must watch’ destination, Vietnam is widely considered one of the cheapest destinations in the world, for example, in Hanoi you can buy freshly tapped beer from street vendors for as little as 10 cents! The street food is also amazing, and a great way to save money on food. You may find better beaches in Thailand, but Vietnam’s countryside and cities have a lot to offer, not to mention the breathtakingly beautiful bays. The country is steeped in history, so make sure you book a tour or two – booking locally will probably save you money.
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