“Your twenties are your selfish years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Travel, explore, and never touch the ground.” These are the oft-quoted words of Japanese photographer Kyoko Escamilla on Tumblr. There is a lot of truth in it, despite its seeming pretentiousness. You’re a legal adult, and you’re coming to the end of your educational life. Your life is now yours, and you make your own decisions. You’ve become more mature, but still, have lots to learn. Your body is in its prime, so take advantage of it! And what better way to expand your horizons and perspectives than to travel?
Your twenties are the best time to travel because you’re still within the socially-acceptable range to party. You also likely have the advantage of having no children that you’re obligated to bring. The only downside might be that you’re still new in your professional life and hence have a smaller budget to work around. Well, don’t let that stop you because here are 15 of the best budget destinations around the world to fully enjoy your golden years!
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Thailand is a backpackers’ best friend. Everything from accommodation to food to activities is low in cost, and rich in experience. Of the numerous Thai islands, Koh Phi Phi is one of the stand-outs. Its’ white beaches and sparkling blue waters make you feel like you’re on a luxury tropical island without the insane prices. Hostels are cheap here, and even if you’d rather a more private accommodation, small hotels and B&Bs can go for as low as $20 a night. If you’re here to party, a hostel is your best bet to meet other young people. You should definitely take a ferry out to this gorgeous little paradise to get away from the noise and crowd of Bangkok for a few days. You won’t regret it.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Belize is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef, the Belize Barrier Reef. It is a prime diving and snorkeling location, where you can see an abundance of marine wildlife, including manatees and sea turtles, and pristine, brightly-colored corals. Caye Caulker is one of the best islands to start off your exploration of the oceans, and you can get accommodation pretty cheap here despite the mega-resorts and spas. There are lots of fun beachfront hostels that you can stay at, for up to $35 a night, and some hostels even let you rent kayaks and scooters. There are also loads of small eateries and laid-back restaurants serving up delicious burritos, burgers, and seafood for low prices.
The Andean city of Cusco has charmed many tourists with its’ awe-inspiring landscapes and promise of adventure. Macchu Pichu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is located here and can be your final destination after a hike through the lush green Sacred Valley. The food is insanely good, and cheap. You’ll be amazed to find humongous avocados that don’t cost $5 like the ones at Trader Joe’s, and other local food like quinoa meatballs, seabass, and huevo ranchoes. There’s a great hostel called Milhouse Hostel located in a brightly colored colonial building with a courtyard filled with beanbags and table tennis. You can book a Macchu Pichu trek through the in-house agency, and beds start at $15 a night!
If you love nature, this is the place for you. Coban, in Guatemala, boasts some of the most incredible landscapes of lush rolling green hills, natural waterfalls, thick jungles and caves hidden away in valleys. Las Victorias National Park is every trekker’s dream come through, with long wooded trails that can last hours. Stay in the town of Laquin, where most of the hostels are located. It’s near Semuc Champey, renowned for its incredible waterfalls.
One of the most beautiful cities in mid-Eastern Europe is often overlooked for places like Vienna and Prague. Known as the Paris of the East, the elegant Danube River flows through, and it’s stunning at night when lit up. Budapest is well-known for its’ famous Szhechenyi thermal baths, a neo-baroque bath complex that is reminiscent of the Roman baths. Other beautiful attractions include Castle Hill, a neighborhood with buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries, and Great Market Hall, a massive indoor market. Hostels are readily available here, and you can also find affordable AirBnBs if you prefer a bit more privacy.
Havana ooh na na, half of my heart is in Havana…
Camila Cabello was right about that! Havana feels like a place stuck in time, from the classic 1950s cars to the jazz musicians playing on the street and brightly-colored colonial houses on dusty roads. The coffee here, is particularly good, extremely rich and sweet. You’ll find that although food is plain here, nothing is more hearty than a plate of rice, beans, meat and sweet plantains. And of course, you can’t not have some daiquiris, Cuba libres and mojitos, Ernest Hemingway’s drink of choice. La Bodeguita del Medio was the literary legend’s go-to bar. You can find affordable accommodation on the shoreline, or if you want, rent out a B&B with a local family. I promise the homecooked food will be the best you’ve ever tasted.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
This surf-town in Guanacaste is home to incredible sunsets, huge waves and incredible food. It also boasts an array of wildlife, from giant leatherback turtles to cheeky howler monkeys in the jungle. If you’re a seasoned surfer, you’ll definitely be able to catch some waves on the beach, and if you’re a beginner, there are many surfing lessons you can undertake. Coral Surf Reef Hostel and Selina Hostel are two good accommodations with a lively party atmosphere.
San Blas, Panama
This largely overlooked archipelago is a tropical paradise of palm trees and sandy beaches. Situated across Panama City, this group of islands is inhabited by the native Guna people and is actually an autonomous region in Panama. These indigenous folks are a green community, so there is no electricity, AC, airports, bars, hotels or restaurants. Instead, you will be immersed in local culture by staying with a family who will provide you a room and meals. P.S. if you pay extra you can upgrade your meal to a lobster feast. You can spend endless days sitting on hammocks and eating fresh coconuts, you don’t even need your phone!
High up in the Himalayas is Nepal. Its capital, Kathmandu, is beautiful in a gritty way, with collapsing walls and temples scattered around. It’s a highly unique place, with both Hindu and Buddhist influences lingering in the architecture. The city is crazy and haphazard, but that is its’ charm. Thamel is the most exciting district to be in, with markets and bazaars at every corner. But the real beauty lies in the rest of the city, in its temples and Durbar squares. Hike up to the Monkey Temple, but be forewarned, those monkeys are pesky! Speaking of that, Monkey Temple Backpacker Hostel is a fun place with cheap accommodation and chill vibes all around.
A go-to for many, Bali can be experienced by everyone of all sorts of budgets. If you’re here to party, the city of Kuta is for you. But if you prefer something more tranquil, Canggu and Seminyak are perfect little laidback towns. Bali is lined with tons of beaches, including the famous Potato Head Club (amazing burgers) and the beach club Ku De Ta. Seminyak is full of small shops with eclectic fashion and trinkets that you can spend the day browsing. You’ll never go hungry here, you can pay as little as $9 for a full avocado toast and smoothie brunch. Check out Naughty Nuri’s if you like barbeque ribs. Accommodation is cheap here, even a decent three-star hotel will only set you back $30 a night.
Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a land blessed with natural beauty. Nuwara Eliya, in particular, is home to a lush landscape of stunning waterfalls winding down rolling green hills. Tea plantations are Sri Lanka’s specialty, so be sure to check out a factory and bring home some famous green and black teas. Hortons Plains National Park is where you want to go, it’s full of greenery and the main attraction is the World’s End viewpoint, a cliff that drops down 880 meters over villages, tea plantations and you can see all the way to the coast. There are many guest houses and inns that will only cost you $20 a night, making it a perfect budget holiday.
The capital city of Colombia is surrounded by mountains and a mish-mash of age-old cathedrals and towering skyscrapers. You can hit some museums, take a graffiti art tour and pay homage at the Holy Mother of Carmen Church. Stay in the La Candelaria area rather than Chapinero which can be more pricey. A hostel should cost no more than $25 a night. If you do want to party though, Chaperino is where all the nightlife happens.
Sihanoukville is well-known as a backpacker party destination. It’s full of hostels with beds for as low as $4 a night and an array of bars serving up cheap beers. What makes it even better is its coastal location, making it a perfect place to hop onto ferries to the nearby islands of Koh Rong, a beautiful undeveloped paradise. You can also head down to Otres Beach on the southern side of the town where most of the young people hang out.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
The capital of Vietnam is a great base point to start a Southeast Asian tour. You might recognize it by the old name, Saigon, made famous by the Broadway musical Miss Saigon. It is an eclectic, busy city with streets lined with motorcycles, tuk-tuks, and cars. The food is really what makes Vietnam a popular destination. The renowned pho is made of broth with rice noodles, beef is the most popular flavor. Spring rolls, both fried and non-fried, are another staple in the cuisine. Pro tip: the shops and stalls with names such as “Aunty” or “Chi” are usually the best ones.
Greece usually brings to mind luxury locations like Mykonos or Santorini. But Kos is equally beautiful and does not break the bank. The sun is bright, the sands are white and the water is clear blue. The island is also full of rich heritage, thanks to its passing through Byzantine, Ottoman and Italian hands through the ages, which is reflected through the architecture and mix of mosques and cathedrals. Exarhia is the bar district of Kos, where you can get reasonably priced drinks. Accommodation is also inexpensive, with hotels for as low as $35 a night.
This list is inexhaustive, there are many more budget-friendly options for travel. If you plan to visit many different countries, we’d say budget is the way to go. When you are in your 20s, your able-bodies and high energy will sustain you through a bit more dirt and effort. Make sure to also not forget to pack along a pool float from The Floatys Co. for some extra fun with your friends on your trips. Happy traveling!