Where's the Gringo?

The 10 Cheapest Countries I’ve Been To

 “How do you travel so much? Did you win the lottery or something? How do you have so much money to travel?”

People ask me these questions often, and I always answer the same way – something along the lines of – “It’s not that hard to, no, and I don’t.”  Now – I’m going to write a more comprehensive & complete article later about travel tips and tricks, but I wanted to make this quick list to show you some destinations that you can go to tomorrow and not break the bank. These are not necessarily the 10 cheapest countries in the world, this is just a list of the 10 cheapest countries that I’ve been to, and some real-life, true-story prices that I paid during my travels. Some of these prices I haggled & worked for, others I found just because, well, I was in that country. It’s not a big secret, it’s just a matter of knowing, and to quote one of my childhood classic cartoons G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.”


Ever heard of those Angkor Wat temples? Yea, you can get a 3-day pass for $40. For less than one day’s admission to Disney World, you get to explore the most spectacular temples on the planet until you’re sick of doing it. How much would you give to be Indiana Jones? $40? I know I did, and would again.

3-day temple entrace: $40.  Becoming Indiana Jones: priceless

3-day temple entrace: $40. Becoming Indiana Jones: priceless

$15 gets you a tuk-tuk & driver for 3 days

$15 gets you a tuk-tuk & driver for 3 days

Sihanoukville is a growing, beach-side destination in southern Cambodia that is known for it’s wild parties and being the port city to access the exotic islands of Cambodia. My brother and I paid $7 for a hotel room with 2 beds and bath.  Hungry? Go to the restaurant Happy Herb Pizza and order a large for $10 – enough to make 3-4 people very happy. The 2-hour boat ride out to Koh Rong cost us $8, and speaking of Koh Rong – we didn’t even pay to stay out there. This stunning, mostly-still-undiscovered island has plenty of places to camp for free. If you don’t have a tent or hammock to sleep in, where else have you found island-bungalows for less than $10 a night per person?

Backpacker life - on the boat to Koh Rong

Backpacker life – on the boat to Koh Rong

Private beach on Koh Rong - $0

Private beach on Koh Rong – $0


Indonesia is MASSIVE, and has more than 17,000 islands. The 3 islands that we went to (Bali, Gili, Lombok) have THE most touristy places in all of Indonesia, and we still couldn’t believe how cheap the prices were. I can only imagine how cheap Indonesia is when you get off the beaten path.

We did not spend more than $12/night for a hotel room in Kuta (the most expensive city on the most expensive island in Indonesia), and I believe we paid $25 a piece to rent motorbikes FOR A FULL WEEK. Speaking of motorbikes, you want to know the best part? THE GAS. Gas was $0.50/liter when we were over there, or about $2.00 a gallon. Indonesia’s government subsidies the gas for their people, and we rode all over Bali/Lombok like motorcycles were being discontinued worldwide – just watch out for the cops.

Some people sell gas from their homes, for a slight 1,000 rupiah markup :)

Some people sell gas from their homes, for a slight 1,000 rupiah markup 🙂


But perhaps the prices that surprised me the most in Indonesia were the prices of the food.  Our favorite type of restaurant was the nasi padang restaurants, where there are buffets with a wide assortment of meats, vegetables, rices, etc. to choose from. I’m a self-professed glutton, so I always come out on the wrong side of the deal with these things, but not here my friends. After piling my plate full of whatever looks good, I was always surprised to pay 10,000-20,000 rupiahs every time ($1-2). If you go to Indonesia, make sure your fat ass goes for a run from time to time.

Or, you can combine all the eating with some healthy, outdoor activities, which Indonesia is renowned for.  My bro & I once went to Gerupuk, a little town where we rented surfboards, a boat with a driver to take us out into the bay where the best waves were, and surfed for 3 hours for 80,000 rupiah.  Furthermore, about $80 is what it cost us for a 2-day excursion up Gunung Rinjani, the 2nd tallest volcano in Indonesia, but maybe that’s because we did it illegally.

Searching for the best waves in Gerupuk

Searching for the best waves in Gerupuk

Sunset from the crater of Gunung Rinjani

Sunset from the crater of Gunung Rinjani


Bolivia – land of cheap, extreme adventure. The Boliviano is about 7 to 1 dollar, but believe me when I tell you that the thrills of your life won’t cost you too many Bolivianos.  For example:
– 3-day Amazon basin tour w/ crocodiles, monkeys, piranhas, anacondas, capybaras, etc. – approx. 700B’s
– Mountain biking world famous “Death Road” with all equipment provided – 200 B’s
– Guided 3-day tour hiking up a 6,000m (20,000ft) mountain with all equipment provided – 600B’s
– 3-day tour to Uyuni salt flat, red lagoon, high Andes geyser, blue lagoon & more – $1,000B’s


What’s for dinner in the Bolivian Amazon? Piranha


If you aren’t the adventurous type, there’s still plenty of other ways to stretch your boliviano in Bolivia with hostels in La Paz costing around 50B’s, meals for 20-30B’s, and not to mention the cheapest, and best-quality alpaca-fur clothing in the world. Gringos get stuck with a $135 VISA fee to enter the country, but that’s a small price to pay for what you can find within.  Note: No links to tour websites provided because it is best to research, & book tours in Bolivia.  

Always a good idea to go to the market - in La Paz

Always a good idea to go to the market – in La Paz


Vietnam is an amazingly diverse country, with no shortage of fun things to do. Actually, in Vietnam, even going to the ATM is a blast. The Dong (that’s their currency, perverts) is about 21,000 to the dollar.  I used to go to the ATM just to check my balance. Seeing all of those digits and commas next to my name had an intoxicating effect on me, and I would sit there and grin like an idiot until someone asked me if I was done yet.

D.R.E.A.M. - Dong Rules Everything Around Me

D.R.E.A.M. – Dong Rules Everything Around Me

Anyways, when you finally do leave the ATM, you can put those Dongs to good use in more ways then one (had to make another dong joke). Meals like Pho & other rice/noodle dishes in big cities will cost you 20-30,000 dong, hostel dorms will run you a solid 100,000 dong, and it’s possible to find beer for 5,000 dong.  Seek out the bars who have Bia Hoi on tap – an in-house brew that many bars/restaurants carry that will cost you a whopping $.25.  Best quarters I’ve ever spent in my life.

Pho - the best $1 soup you'll ever have you in your life

Pho – the most delicious $1 soup you will ever taste

View from a hotel in Sapa with $10 rooms

View from a hotel in Sapa w/ $10 rooms

Regarding some of the popular things to see, and it’s possible to get these tours cheaper, but we paid about $100 for our 3-night, 2-day Sapa tour, $150 for our 3-day Halong bay tour, and bought a jump-on, jump-off bus that literally took us through the entire country for $50 – all through Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel.  Are you starting to notice a pattern here?


Ha Long bay tour – I would have paid triple the price

Beachfront seafood pasta lunch w/ beer in Hoi An - $3

Beachfront seafood pasta lunch with beer in Hoi An – $3


I went to Europe in 2008 right after the economy collapsed, Bush was a lameduck president, and the dollar was near an all-time low versus the Euro – AWESOME. Despite my unfortunate timing while being in the most-expensive continent on Earth, I still found Greece to be cheap. With the current state of Greece’s economy and the strength of the dollar, I bet you Greece is even cheaper now.

When I finally arrived in Athens after a 40 hour train ride from hell, I stepped out of the station famished and looking for some food to stuff in my piehole. When I found a Gyro spot on the corner, I didn’t care what it cost, I needed one. Then the sweet lady at the register told me it cost 1.5 EUROS (about $2). If I wasn’t so hungry, I would have kissed that sweet, little Greek lady right on her sweet, hairy cheek. My friend who recently went to Greece told me they are still about the same price, and you can find these places all over Greece. The Gyros are HUGE too – packed with succulent lamb, feta cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and FRENCH FRIES. Yep, you get all off that for about $2 – I used to eat 3 a day.

Gyros in Greece - so cheap, why not 2?

Gyros in Greece – so cheap, why not 2?

When you get to the islands things can become more expensive, so you have to be careful. If you’re on a budget, avoid the popular party islands like Mykonos, Ios, & Santorini. You’ll spend a fortune there. I went to Paros, which is not a huge destination, but is not unknown either. Hostels on Paros cost about $7-8/night, but most people in the Grecian islands just party until they pass out on the beach anyways.

Traditional Greek festival w/ free food & wine - #SCORE

Traditional Greek festival w/ free food & wine – #SCORE


Ever since the canal was built in Panama, there have been lots of US dollars floating around, and now most people actually prefer dollars to the local Balboa currency.  But even though your wallet may be stuffed with greenbacks while in Panama, you won’t spend too many of them if you don’t get wreckless.

On the mainland, things are even cheaper, but in Bocas del Toro, a tropical, island destination on the Caribbean side, it’s not uncommon to find hostels for $10/night. Water taxis shuttle you between various islands for $1. Buying a beer at a beachside restaurant will set you back $2.  We found a place to camp, with preset tents & mattresses, showers & a kitchen all underneath a sheltered roof for $7/night.

Bocas del Toro is also one of the cheapest places I’ve seen to get certified in scuba diving – some $250 for your 4-day Open Water course. Some of the tours can get pricey depending on what you do and for how long, but there are plenty of ways to have fun for cheap. Rent a bike for $4/day and explore the islands – come on it’s the Caribbean!

Exploring a wreck dive site in Bocas

Exploring a wreck dive site in Bocas


Argentina is the only country that I have listed where the prices of everything depends on the black market. Well, technically it’s called the blue market. The blue market is the business of changing currency in the street. Argentina’s official exchange rate of their peso and the market’s rate are different, significantly. This is due to problems with their government & inflation, but long story short, if you can, BRING U.S. DOLLARS TO ARGENTINA. You cannot extract US dollars from ATM’s anywhere in Argentina. If you forget to bring dollars, or run out of money, you can always take a boat across the river to Uruguay, get a bunch of dollars, come back, and then change them in the street.

When we went this past summer, the official rate was about 8 pesos to the dollar, but the blue market rate was 12 pesos to the dollar. That’s a difference of 35%. Argentina isn’t terribly expensive to begin with, but if you can take advantage of the blue market exchange rate, then Argentina just became pretty cheap. I’m pretty sure that I ate steak and drank red wine every day, for like 100 pesos. Finding hostels in the nicest areas of Buenos Aires can be done for 60-100 pesos (depending on the season) – and given the fact that Buenos Aires looks like Paris & is the most beautiful city in South America – that is a steal.

View from our $6 hostel in downtown Buenos Aires

View from our $6 hostel in downtown Buenos Aires

Red meat & red wine  - everyday Argentina diet

Red meat & red wine – everyday Argentina diet


Laos is unfortunately one of the 20 poorest countries in the world, and that translates to dirt cheap prices. Which reminds me, not only do you get amazing prices when you visit these countries, but spending money there helps out the people and economy. So travel to these countries and spend money there – win win!

Anyways, just getting into the country from Thailand is a cheap adventure. Given that the roads are horrible in Laos, we opted for the 2 night, 2 day slow boat trip down the Mekong River, which included accommodations and amazing scenery, and only cost about $30. After arriving in Luang Prabang (the final destination), you can find loads of French bakeries (Laos was a French colony) with $1-2 pastries, and restaurants with $2 Laotian dishes.

The exchange rate when we were there (2013)

The exchange rate when we were there (2013)

A menu in Laos - if you can't read

A menu in Laos – it was “kind of” cheap as shit

It’s always fun comparing the tradeoff between quality and price in hostels, but I think this bungalow (pictured below) we found in Vang Vieng, Laos takes the cake for best $4 accommodation ever.

This is what $4 looks like

This is what $4 looks like


I’m not talking about Cancun, Cozumel or Playa del Carmen. Any place in the Caribbean with thousands of gringos walking around will have gringo prices.

morpheus meme

There are so many places to see in Mexico, and for cheap. From Mayan ruins, to beautiful “pueblo magico” towns filled with Spanish architecture, to other beautiful beaches, Mexico has some of the best variety for your peso of any country I’ve seen. Speaking of which the dollar currently stands at about 14.5 Mexican pesos.

We found beachfront hostels in Zipolite for 100 pesos, seafood platters (big portions) for about $10, and don’t even get me started on the Coronas, XX, & Modelos.  My girlfriend and I actually just got back from Oaxaca, where we lived the good life on the beach for 3 weeks for about $300.

Neatly designed bungalows in Zipolite

Neatly designed bungalows in Zipolite that cost about $8 a person

Mexico is another country where foodies on a budget are in heaven. Go into a local market and you may never leave. Picture Taco Bell dollar-menu prices, but for real authentic Mexican food. So many chalupas, enchiladas, & quesadillas, and so little time…

This "tlayuda" & my new friend = $4

The cost of this “tlayuda” & making a new friend = $4



Despite having been on travelers’ radar for many years, Thailand remains a surprisingly cheap destination. There’s a huge backpacking scene, so there are a wide variety of budget hostels/guesthouses everywhere you go between $5-10.  The cuisine is some of the tastiest in the world ($2-5 meals at street stalls/markets), the majority of the Buddhist temples are free, and Chang beer never disappoints (Beware: The Changover).


Another $1.50 meal

Thailand could turn into your favorite country for a variety of reasons, but one of my favorite things about this kingdom is the $5-10 hour-long Thai massages. Talk about pampering. For the price of a McDonalds happy meal, you can get your world rocked by a little Thai lady who jumps all over your body like a spider monkey. It’s almost too good to be true, and you will leave happy (even without the “Happy Ending”).

30 minute foot massage & beer = $4

30 minute foot massage & beer = $4

My massage outfit - BACKOFF NO HAPPY ENDINGS!

My massage outfit – BACKOFF NO HAPPY ENDINGS!

With the blissful beaches in the south, Bangkok’s raucous party in the middle, and Chiang Mai & the mountains in the north, you’ll want to cover some ground in exploring this country. The good news is that the transportation is also cheap – via bus, train, catamaran, or flight. Try sleeper buses or trains to save money on accommodations and wake up in your new destination (private 2nd class rooms start at approx. $25), or catch $60 jumper flights throughout the country if you’re on a tighter schedule.

You Can’t Afford Not To Go!

So do you like doing awesome things and not spending much money?  Consider traveling to some of these countries.  You’ll be amazed at how cheap traveling can be sometimes.  Do you have any good cheap, travel stories?  I would love to hear about more cheap places & countries that aren’t in this list.  See you cheapskates in the comments below!


11 thoughts on “The 10 Cheapest Countries I’ve Been To

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Thanks man. Yea just got back from some time away, def working on some articles now! Thanks for following along.

  1. Bexy Ribeiro

    Ford, thank you for writing this! You have given me a serious case of wanderlust! It’s good to see you having the time of your life and traveling the world! For now, I’ll do it vicariously through you! Save travels! Keep up the great writing!

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Thanks for the inspirational words Bexy, I really appreciate them. I’m happy to have people live vicariously through this site, but the ultimate goal is to convince people to go for it in real life. Maybe one day we can meet up somewhere exotic & have some adventures of our own!

  2. Crista

    Hi Ford! We met in chatlotte a couple of years ago, Im from Guatemala, I dont think you have ever been there! I will be there from mid of July to end of August, you and your brother are welcome to visit, and I would be glad to drive and take you to all the amazing places that the country has to offer, for example a big lake that used to be the crater of a volcano, the biggest Mayan city, where Starwars VI movie was filmed, a super cool active volcano, a beach where the sand is black, a jungle that has non touristic virgin caves, where you have to raft in some places and hike through some others, and lots of other super cool places! Its a super cheap country! I definitely recomend it on your list! Let me know!

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Si claro que te recuerdo! Eso sería increíble pero creo que estaremos haciendo un roadtrip en el oeste de EEUU entonces. Si no lo estuviéramos viajando así, me encantaría viajar por Guatemala contigo. Pero sabes que? Definitivamente voy a ir a Guatemala – estimo llegar allí en octubre, deberías pasarme unos datos de todo! Gracias!

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Yea Panama is def more affordable than Costa Rica, don’t you agree? What were your favorite parts of your trip and for how long did you go?

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Glad you found it, and how could I not share information about one of the best places on Earth – HaLong Bay!

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