Where Can You Travel on $25 a Day?

People traveling via river raft

John Bill / Shutterstock

You can still find them if you know where to look: those places where you can strap on a backpack and travel around for a long time without spending too much money. Young travelers seeking an international experience have been doing this for generations – spending months on the road, getting from place to place by local bus or train ... or even bicycle.

For the paltry sum of $25 per day (or less), frugal travelers can not only move around these eight countries (like Vietnam, pictured here), but can have a good time and even enjoy a few extra comforts once in a while. Of course, airfares, which can sometimes be expensive, are not a part of this equation. However, it’s possible to stay on the road for months once you arrive.

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Nicaragua

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Arguably one of the cheapest destinations in the Americas, Nicaragua is often overlooked by tourists who instead flock to Costa Rica, Panama, and the islands of Honduras. For about $3, you can enjoy a stomach-filling meal in any Nicaraguan city, while a trip in a bus, minibus or taxi will generally fall in the $3 to $5 range.

Even in the popular tourist and expat cities of Leon and Granada, the prices don't rise much above these levels. In fact, some people choose to stay in Nicaragua long-term, living very well on about $1,000 to $1,500 for an entire month. Hostel beds can be had for about $4 to $5 in most Nicaraguan cities and towns, while $10 will get you a basic private room. If you can find a way to up your budget to $35 to $50 per day, you can enjoy a splurge-filled Central American experience here. And, of course, Nicaragua has one major advantage for North America-based travelers: It is cheaper to fly here than to reach the other far-flung destinations on our list.

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Ethiopia

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There are a lot of reasons to visit the history-rich East African nation of Ethiopia. This is a country of stunning landscapes, amazing wildlife, ancient buildings and a fascinating collection of cultures that are not seen anywhere else. Even the cosmopolitan capital of Addis Ababa, arguably one of Africa's safest cities for tourists, can be enjoyed on a strict budget. Dining on local specialties, like injera, a spongy flat bread that is dipped in meat or lentil stews, can keep your food costs under a few dollars per day. Even an occasional sit-down meal at a “fancy” restaurant won't set you back more than $10.

Rooms are also cheap. You can find a sleeping spot for only a few dollars if you are willing to forgo air conditioning and hot water. Meanwhile, $10 to $15 will buy a clean, quiet, decently-equipped guesthouse room. Mini-buses ply the city streets in Addis Ababa. Figuring out how to get where you are going can be a challenge, but you will literally be able to cross the entire city in one of these vehicles and then return to your guesthouse for less than a dollar, round trip. Add these costs together and you'll realize that you can actually live pretty well for $25 per day in Ethiopia.

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Bulgaria

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Bulgaria has as impressive a collection of historic attractions as does its Balkan neighbors. Visitors will find charming and timeless small towns, castles and even eco-tourism opportunities. The capital, Sofia, has its own mountain and ski resort, which offers some of the cheapest lift tickets in Europe. Guesthouse dorm beds can dip as low as $10 per night, but long term tourists may be able to find a better deal by renting an apartment for $300 to $400 per month.

Long-haul buses, the best way to move around Bulgaria, will generally cost $10 to $20 for a one-way journey. Meanwhile, meals are only a few dollars, at most, as long as you stick to the hearty local cuisine. Admittedly, $25 per day will take a bit of planning, but Bulgaria offers a great balance between user-friendliness and cheap prices. Getting around in this country is much easier (and quicker) than in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and most of the other countries on our list.

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Cambodia

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Civil unrest and a lack of infrastructure kept many tourists out of Cambodia until relatively recently. Those intrepid backpackers who walked the streets of Phnom Penh a decade or two ago would hardly recognize the Cambodian capital today. The same goes for many other parts of the country as well. Development is rife, but Cambodia's trademark exotic vibe can still be felt here. Dollar beers, meals for 50 cents, and $5 rooms make this a cheap country in which to spend time.

For $10 to $20 you can get you some very respectable accommodations. If you can brave the sometimes-bumpy roads, you won't have to pay more than $10 to $15 to get anywhere in the country by bus. Things are slightly more expensive at Angkor Wat, an ancient temple complex that is Cambodia’s undisputed main attraction. However, the beach destination of Kep is one of many examples of places in Cambodia that still have the kind of old-fashioned backpacker scene that has disappeared in the rest of Southeast Asia. This sleepy beach town still offers dirt-cheap rooms, cheaper food and a lazy atmosphere.

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India

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India is a great travel destination. With thousands of different cultural and religious groups, history everywhere you look and scenery that can't be topped, this is one of the few countries on earth where it is not a cliche to say: “there's something for everyone.” However, this is not a place for inexperienced travelers or people who aren't prepared to sacrifice some comforts in order to save rupees. Spartan guesthouse rooms can be had for $5 to $10, even in popular tourist destinations and major cities. Shared dorm rooms are the best for ultra-budget travelers, with rates as low as $1 per night.

Local restaurants – those that don't cater to tourists – will charge $1 for a meal, at the very most. If you can eat local food all the time and are aware of the proper prices (tourists here occasionally encounter price gouging), $2 to $3 per day is actually a reasonable food budget. India's legendary train network offers bargain fares, though only the toughest and most patient travelers will want to consider the cheapest “general compartments” with their wooden benches and overcrowded cars.

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Vietnam

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Like Cambodia, Vietnam has developed at light speed over the past two decades. While prices have risen significantly since the late '90s and early '00s, when $10 to $20 per day was a reasonable budget, it is still possible to travel quite cheaply in this Southeast Asian nation. This is one of the few places that actually has a favorable exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.

You can get a nice meal for $5, though there are plenty of $2 to $3 street-food options on every corner in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, while 50-cent coffees and $1 beers are the norm. Very basic $10 single rooms can be found in every city and town, and many locally owned guesthouses offer scruffy-but-livable $5 dorm beds as well. Low-cost airlines have come into the Vietnamese market, though the $50 to $100 fares are not as cheap as braving the famous Highway 1 in a bus or trundling along the scenic coastline in an aged train.

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Madagascar

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This African island nation is probably the most expensive in terms of airfares (though it's cheaper for Europe-based fliers than for North Americans). However, it is one of the cheapest countries on Earth to travel around if you are willing to forego the package tour route in favor of a more independent experience. Basic accommodations are in the $5 to $10 range. This is the case everywhere, even in the the main city of Antananarivo and in the resort area of Nosy Be.

The amazing wildlife and plant life (a majority of the plants and animals in Madagascar are endemic – they are not found in the wild anywhere else on earth) and the unique culture of Madagascar truly make this a destination like no other. For $5 can get a “fancy” meal, while there are infinitely cheaper options if you are willing to stick to local fare or self-cater with food bought from a market. Actually, water (like many places, bottled water is a necessity unless you are willing to boil or use a filter) might be the most expensive aspect of a backpacker's budget.

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Indonesia

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One of Asia's most exciting and oft-overlooked destinations, Indonesia is actually one of the world's largest countries in terms of population, with 240 million inhabitants. Luxury resort stays in Bali will cost you more than similar accommodations in Tahiti or Hawaii. However, the same small island also has shared dorm rooms at guesthouses that cost only a few dollars per night. In many places, including the mega-city of Jakarta, a local meal will set you back 50 cents or less if you know where to go and aren't scared of eating on the street.

Travel on the island of Java is not expensive if you are willing to move around by bus. However, this is one country where domestic air travel might be worth the cost. Low-cost airlines offer reasonable flights between the different islands. Ferry service is also available, but the money saved by traveling on a ferry might not be worth the time lost by forgoing air travel. On Java, however, buses are the way to go, with comfortable long-distance service available for under $20 (under $10 for shorter journeys).