If you’re a student traveling on a college budget, forget expensive and cliche destinations like Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Instead, consider far-off places like Cambodia, Poland, or Peru — all of which can provide more culture and far more value. Sound good? Keep scrolling for the 15 best travel destinations for college students on a budget.
Italy and Greece may top many a bucket list, but both countries are far too expensive for the average college student on a budget. Instead, those on a college budget who are interested in the remains of ancient empires should consider Albania. This great alternative is full of inexpensive hostels and hotels. Even food, transportation, and activities are cheaper than in most other European countries. Visitors to Albania will want to experience the many interesting museums dedicated to the country’s shared history with Rome, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire. Just as interesting are the many beaches, especially those in the southern part of the country collectively known as the Albanian Riviera.
Western Europe is notoriously expensive, but one merciful exception to that is Holland. Known also as The Netherlands, this small and fascinating country has tons to offer the budget traveler. Right off the bat, flight deals into the capital city of Amsterdam come around quite frequently thanks to the fact that the main airport, Schiphol, is a major European hub. Once you’ve landed, check out the city’s long list of free and cheap attractions and activities, including:
- walking tours
- canal cruises
Hostels in Amsterdam are plentiful, so even finding clean and safe accommodation is friendly on the wallet.
Even with the popularity of countries like Thailand and Vietnam, Asia is still considered a budget-friendly destination. And what’s one of the best Asian countries for college students on a budget? That would be Cambodia. This enchanting country offers visitors starred hotels for much lower prices than other destinations around the world. Food and transportation costs are also low here, as are entrance fees to places like Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even better is the fact that many of Cambodia’s most beloved sites are completely free, as is the case with Monkey Island, said to be the real-life inspiration behind the story of King Kong.
Flight deals and travel packages are quite common for China, making this powerhouse country a great budget destination for college students. The big cities of Shanghai and Beijing are great additions to any itinerary. Both places offer plenty of safe, no-frills accommodation options averaging $10 per night. Street food or popular chain restaurants can cost as little as $1. Even day trips to such iconic sights as the Great Wall of China can be extremely affordable, with plenty of options to choose from.
Colombia is experiencing a Renaissance. With local businesses, tour companies, and even the government desperate to attract visitors and prove themselves a worthy destination, Colombia is extremely budget friendly. The capital city of Bogota has plenty to see and do, as does the charming city of Cartagena, an historic walled city chock full of colonial-era architecture and cobblestoned streets just inviting you to explore. In both cities, large hotels can be booked for less than $100 a night, though we recommend finding something unique like an eco-friendly coffee farm, where you can stay for a mere $30 a night.
College students on a budget, but desperate for beaches, would do well to consider a trip to the Dominican Republic. Extremely affordable four- and five-star resorts are easily available from online travel agencies like Groupon and Expedia. Once in the DR, activities are also budget friendly, and range from kayaking Los Haitises National Park ($3 for the rental) to lounging on the world-class, white-sand beaches (free!).
As the tourism industry improves in India, so too do the budget friendly options. Travelers can do well throughout India with a budget of just $50 per day. This includes affordable, yet safe and healthy, meals, accommodations, and transportation. While flights from the United States to India can cost a pretty penny, flights around India can be affordable enough to make seeing everything from the beaches of Goa to the hustle and bustle of Mumbai possible.
Indonesia — and especially its island of Bali — is currently one of the most popular travel destinations, and for good reason: it’s cheap! From lush rainforests to postcard-perfect beaches, Indonesia is a great destination for those who love adventure, but are on a budget. Whether you choose to visit Bali, Sumatra, or one of Indonesia’s other islands (there are more than 1,000!), you’re likely to find:
- clean accommodations
- activities like snorkeling and beach yoga
- delicious delicacies that won’t set you back more than a few dollars each.
Latvia recently did a stint as the European Union’s chosen European Capital of Culture. That did a lot to highlight this beautiful, underrated, and totally budget-friendly country. Latvia’s capital city, Riga, is perfect for college students on a limited budget. Some of the city’s best features are architectural, and experiencing these UNESCO World Heritage Sites is as easy as joining a free or cheap walking tour. Riga Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church, both hailing from medieval times, are also free to enter. Food, transportation, and accommodation options are plentiful, and very inexpensive compared to so many other European countries.
- cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur
- the remote culinary mecca of Penang
- the island of Borneo with its lush rainforests and population of orangutans
If you’re looking for beaches and classy resorts, Malaysia has plenty, very few of which are likely to cost as much as those found on more “traditional” college-kid itineraries.
Sure, Peru can get expensive. But this vibrant South American country can also be done on a college-student budget. Hostels, or even a private room in a guesthouse, are likely to cost about $30, while full meals can be found outside of the fanciest restaurants for $5-10. If a guided tour to Machu Picchu is out of your budget, there’s no need to worry. Peru offers the budget-conscious traveler plenty to see and do for less. These budget-friendly options include:
- sailing down the Amazon
- enjoying the white-sand beaches of Mancora
- touring lesser known Inca ruins like Choquequirao.
The often overlooked Eastern European country of Poland is a hidden gem, especially for college-aged travelers on a budget. The fairy tale-like town of Krakow features a cobblestoned main square and a McDonalds that just happens to double as a fascinating archaeological site. Meanwhile, Warsaw is chock full of history that even art majors are sure to appreciate. Both cities offer visitors free or inexpensive activities, including:
- outdoor concerts
- ornate gardens
- good, old-fashioned exploring on foot.
Want to experience Europe without the insanely high prices? Then head to Portugal! This beautiful country is often overlooked by tourists, but that’s a mistake. The capital city of Lisbon is a great destination for historical and cultural sites, while the coastal towns of the Algarve are ideal for relaxing on the beach. And because Portugal’s overall cost of living is 30% less than the rest of Western Europe, its costs of accommodation, food, and transportation are all much less too. Must-do activities include:
- lazing on the beach
- visiting castles
- trying fresh seafood from cafes.
College students who travel all the way to Eastern Europe will be thrilled with all that Romania has to offer. Surviving day-to-day in this budget-friendly country can often mean $40 a day for sit-down meals, clean accommodations, and public transportation. Romania’s best offerings — its historic architecture, welcoming charm, and interesting culture — are all free.
If you’re okay saving the expensive Galapagos Islands for another time, then Ecuador is a near perfect travel destination for college students on a budget. This is especially true for Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. Over the last 10 years, Quito has spent upwards of $250 million to make itself more appealing to tourists. Today, it’s a bustling city with an impressive number of historic hotels, cozy AirBnBs, and restaurants you’ll want to write home about. Wandering Quito’s maze-like streets, arguably the city’s best adventure activity, is especially easy on the wallet, as are the myriad plazas, cathedrals, and street foods you’ll find along the way.