We’ve spent the last year being a couch potato, but I’m sure that like me, you’d also wanna make this year the best year of travels and adventures!

Having said that, once you decide to take a gap year and travel abroad, the first thing that would surely strike you is the budget.

There are many great gap year destinations, but some are friendlier on the pocket than others. If you need to keep your budget low on your gap year, you’ll need to pick the right destination.

So here’s a list of the most budget-friendly gap year destinations that are absolutely perfect choices for backpackers and gap year travelers who are bitten by the wanderlust bug!

Thailand

To say the least, ‘The Land of Smiles’ undoubtedly tops the chart when it comes to the most popular gap year destination.

With an average budget of $20 per day, one can manage the stay, food, and transport easily in Bangkok. And there are ample options for those who wish to go slow and stay for a little longer in this beautiful Southeast Asian nation.

From attending Thai Boxing classes to exploring the floating markets, volunteering for the elephants to gaining some cookery skills – Thailand has the best to offer the gap year travelers and backpackers who are looking for an exclusive experience. It’s not just that – you can go for some adventurous water sports, chill by the beaches and indulge in island hopping as well!

One can never go wrong while backpacking in Thailand!

Budget-friendly gap year destinations - Thailand
Boats in Thailand

India

There’s a reason why India will always be a backpacker’s paradise – it’s gorgeous and inexpensive at the same time! A country that is so diverse, it’s often said that a lifetime is not enough to explore India’s vastness.

From the mighty Himalayas in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south, and from the great Thar desert in the west to the Seven Sister States in the east – you’ll just fall short of time to tick off everything that you have on your ‘India bucket list’!

You just need to ‘Eat Pray Love’ your way through this awe-inspiring country. Start your trip from the bustling capital city of New Delhi and spend a few days there.

Feel the culture shock and soak in the chaos before moving to another place. You can visit Varanasi and Rishikesh (which are the religious hotspots), Jaisalmer (to experience the bliss of desert camping), Mumbai (from where Bollywood originates), Goa (the beach capital and hippie paradise of India), Pondicherry (the French colony) and Calcutta (popular as ‘The City of Joy’).

Oh, and how can you miss witnessing the beauty of the Taj Mahal while you are in India!

Gap year destinations - India
Taj Mahal in India

Nepal

If you’re looking for something a bit more spiritual for your gap year destination, then head towards Nepal, where Lord Buddha was born 2500 years ago.

Termed as ‘The Most Budget-Friendly Destination’ by the Lonely Planet in 2017, this Himalayan hamlet will sweep you off your feet with its panoramic beauty and peaceful aura. The capital city of Kathmandu is nothing short of a religious hub where you’ll find hundreds of temples and even more sadhus, showering you with blessings. Don’t miss the sunrise at Bhaktapur and a boat ride in the serene village of Pokhara. Animal lovers will surely have a treat while exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chitwan National Park.

If you wish to contribute towards the Nepalese society, then be a part of a volunteering project and make a difference. Adventure enthusiasts and mountain lovers shouldn’t miss the chance of going for an Himalayan trek.

Bhaktapur in Nepal
Bhaktapur in Nepal

Cambodia

For all those wanderlustful souls, exploring Cambodia needs no second thought!

While backpacking across this mysterious land, you’ll stumble upon beautiful islands, breathtaking beaches, visit incredible temples, and savor the taste of delicious Khmer food. Cambodia topped the chart for housing the world’s most popular UNESCO Heritage Site, the ruins of Angkor, and you’ll know it’s essence only when you’ll visit the land.

But Cambodia isn’t just about Angkor, but the country witnessed a dark past during the Khmer Rouge and slowly pushed itself out of it, towards the light of development. In the current decade, Cambodia is one of the most favored destinations among travelers from all across the world, who are keen on a cultural immersion at a pocket-friendly budget. It’s truly a magical land where you can buy a can of beer for just 25 cents, rent a bed at a backpacker’s hostel for a dollar and a delicious meal for just $2 – are you tempted already?

P.S – check out our guide on staying at a hostel to make sure you have an epic experience!

Angkor, Cambodia
Angkor, Cambodia

Peru

From one UNESCO Heritage Site to another, the land where the Inca Civilization once flourished is undoubtedly a gem for backpackers.

A perfect destination for gap year travelers, Peru has so much to do that you’ll surely fall short of time and feel like doing as much as you can, at one go! From the lush Amazonian forests to the Andean highlands and the mysterious Nazca Lines to the ruins of the Sacred Valley and the gorgeousness of the Rainbow Mountains, exploring Peru will be an unpredictable and unforgettable adventure. There’s so much more to Peru besides Machu Picchu.

Start your journey from the capital city of Lima and head towards the Arequipa. Move to Cusco later and go for a hike to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu where you can go hike the Inca Trail. You can also enroll in a Spanish Language Learning course, that’ll add more to your Peruvian expedition.

Spend adequate time in the country, knowing about its glorious past, observe their culture and lifestyle and join their celebrations to feel the true essence of life.

Related Read: How to Visit Cusco & Machu Picchu on a Budget

Arequipa in Costa Rica
Arequipa in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is often mistaken as an expensive country to be explored in Latin America, travelers prefer to head towards the affordable neighboring destinations like Panama and Nicaragua!

But the truth is that Costa Rica isn’t as expensive as you think it to be. With its incredible biodiversity, options for adventure sports, series of active volcanoes, refreshing natural hot springs and beautiful beaches, you just can’t skip visiting this land of Pura Vida (Pure Life)!

If you are looking but a gap year experience in Costa Rica on a shoestring budget, then you need not worry much! You can easily manage your accommodation in $7 – $10 a night (even better if you can find options for Couchsurfing), and eat at the “sodas,” or local Tico restaurants which are away from the main tourist hubs! You shouldn’t miss exploring the capital city of San Jose, the endearing beach town of Montezuma, and the volcano parks of La Fortuna.

Chalk out your itinerary so that you can get some time to spend amidst nature and make good use of your camera to click some amazing shots of the scarlet macaws, jaguars, howler monkeys, sloths, and the rare glass frog. And make sure to go bird watching in Costa Rica.

Playa Samara in Costa Rica
Playa Samara in Costa Rica

Turkey

What exactly comes to your mind when you think of Turkey? Probably not among your list of gap year destinations.

A country that forms a bridge between Asia and Europe, Turkey has emerged as one of the most popular backpacking and gap year destinations due to its spectacular landscapes and an immensely unique history. One can easily travel across the country with a daily budget of $15 – $20. The capital city of Istanbul has an old world charm and it’s the perfect place to absorb Turkish culture and savor the cuisine.

Explore the historic towns of Göreme, Pamukkale, and Selçuk, spend adequate time in the coastal areas of Kekova, and get amazed to witness the jaw-dropping beauty of the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire. Walk down the local Turkish markets and pick up souvenirs on your way back home! You can even visit Cappadocia on a budget!

Gap year in Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey

Albania

A cheaper alternative to Greece and Italy, Albania has all the best things that a Mediterranean country has to offer.

The country has a remarkable array of unique attractions, from stunning mountainous landscapes to forgotten archeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still for centuries.

Start your trip from the capital city of Tirana, and hike up Mount Dajti to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. Make your way through the Albanian countryside and chill on the horseshoe-shaped beach of Saranda. Don’t forget to binge on Balkan burek (a flaky pastry filled with cheese or meat and onions) and make amazing memories while exploring this Adriatic paradise!

Affordable gap year destinationsLekursi in Albania
Lekursi in Albania

So, now that you know the list of the most affordable gap year destinations, get started with your research work, pick the country that excites you the most and have an adventurous gap year abroad!

Author


  • Riyanka Roy

    Riyanka Roy is an ordinary girl with some extraordinary dreams. She loves to believe in the miracles of destiny and wants to travel all over the world, spend time with the natives, binge on local food, and absorb their culture. She feels that she’s born with vagabond blood, and stagnation makes her feel claustrophobic. Life, for her, is like a book, and she loves writing about everything interesting she comes across. She believes that her stories make the chapters of her book more colorful. Read more about her adventures on Backpacking Romance and follow her journeys on Instagram.