There are many amazing cities around the world which are perfect for backpackers, but I chose these 15 cities, ideal for Filipino travelers, based on my experience of the ease of getting visas and the low cost of sightseeing there. You may also want to check with local offices of the countries or travel resources for more detailed information.
When planning a low budget backpacking trip, it’s important to find the right balance of price and experience – if you become preoccupied with budgeting too low, then you could miss out on some great experiences for the sake of a few extra dollars. If you don’t budget enough, then you could run out of cash in the first week and cut your epic journey extremely short. It’s a bit of a tightrope! (READ: 9 types of trips you must take in your 20s)
During our around-the-world journey, we usually try to spend maximum of $25 per day in each place we’re going. This includes accommodation, food, general day-to-day activities, but not long-distance transportation in between major destinations.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re out there in the world to see new things, meet new people, learn life lessons and have the experience of a lifetime, so whatever your budget, make the most of every second! (READ: 5 tips for your budget trips)
Hoi An, Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the best countries for backpackers to visit nowadays – from incredible food, cheap hostels, great beer, all infused with a rich yet sometimes turbulent history and time-honored traditions.
Hoi An is perfect for relaxing strolls through the historic city, soaking up all of the local culture and atmosphere. With over 460 tailors, it’s also the go-to destination for tailored suits, outfits and even shoes at prices that would make shopping in even India look expensive!
With so many people from surrounding areas migrating to Hoi An, you can also find a huge variety of special dishes from different regions. Some dishes that are not to be missed are Bahn My, Bun Cha, Nem, Cau Lao, Com Ga and Mi Quang and a lot more for as little as $1-3 per meal!
Vang Vieng, Laos
Situated in the heart of one of the poorest countries in Asia, this picturesque riverside town is all rich, awe-inspiring landscapes, cascading waterfalls, refreshing lagoons and huge caves to explore. It’s also home to the once crazy, alcohol-fueled and often dangerous river tubing that still creates the biggest draw for international backpackers to the town, despite being reduced to a mellow float down the river with just a handful of bars to stop and relax in.
Aside from the tubing, other great activities are the caving, trekking and many volunteering opportunities with local communities in the area.
A good money-saving tip here is to try to stick to the local food, as anything foreign has to be imported, making it about double the price of neighboring countries.
‘Where on earth is this?’ you might cry. If you want to experience a unique and enchanting European city, without applying for a Schengen visa, then Armenia is for you! It’s a spellbinding blend of middle Eastern and European culture and history shaped and scarred by over a hundred years of war, invasion and social / political upheaval. Fortunately, all is now calm and the country is a beautiful place visit, far from the beaten path.
From Armenia, you can also easily take a train to Georgia, another country where you can get a 183-day visa! The scenery, the food and the wine will make you want to live here forever, but of course you’ll be tempted away by new and exciting destinations. Such is the gift and the curse of being bitten by the travel bug.
Koh Rong, Cambodia
Most backpackers who visit Cambodia tend to head straight to Phnom Penh to learn about the Khmer Rouge history and then Siem Reap to witness the magnificent pre-Buddhist temples of Angkor Wat. If you want a break from urban life, then head for the coast and the beachside town of Sihanoukville, from there another 30 minutes to 1 hour boat ride to this soon-to-be-famous island of Koh Rong.
It doesn’t have the best beaches in comparison with Thailand and the Philippines, but it’s a small piece of paradise that’s not too crowded, and there is another even more remote island just nearby: Koh Rong Saloem.
There is little to do here except relax, eat fresh fish, walk on perfect beaches and take nightly midnight swims with glow-in-the-dark plankton. It’s the perfect place to re-enact that Leonardo Di Caprio scene from The Beach, you just need to find Leo!
Koh Pah Ngan, Thailand
Young and free at a Full Moon party in Koh Pah Ngan, Thailand
Looking for a hardcore beach party? Best-known for it’s (in)famous Full Moon Party, Koh Pha Ngan is the monthly host to the week-long extravaganza of excess. It’s the ultimate occasion to experience a full week of parties in a tropical beach backdrop, dancing in the sand with the ocean lapping at your feet. Since it’s pretty much every gap year backpacker’s favorite destination in Thailand, you need to book your hostels way in advance if you want a place to sleep for the night. There are many who choose to arrive with nothing and sleep on the beach, but it’s not recommended!
To escape the backpacker parties for a night or two, check out the other side of the island. Koh Pha Ngan is also a hub for yoga, meditation and spirituality, with many yogi communities based permanently on the island. To re-center yourself and prepare your body and mind for the long journey ahead, check into a retreat for as little as $250 per month!
Dharamsala, India (Northwest India)
Most visitors to India simply explore the Golden Triangle circuit (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur), but just another 12 hours by bus from the capital is the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala. (READ: Peace, reflection, solitude in Dharamsala, India)
Spend a few days here immersing yourself in ancient culture and wisdom, where you can attend daily Puja ceremonies in the monastery and experience a fusion of Indian and Tibetan culture in everything from food, religion, clothing and festivals. Speaking of food, you cannot leave this stunning corner of the world without tying some authentic Momos!
From here, head back down to what many call the modern yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh, where you can study to become a teacher and even study massage therapy. We studied Ayurveda massage therapy here and now practice all over the world!
If you have extra time and you’re a little more adventurous, then head for the snowcapped mountains of Manali and hike up to Kheer Ganga. You can even ski here! Overnight buses from New Delhi can bring you directly to this backpacker adventure heaven in the Northwest of India.
Gangtok, Sikkim India (Northeast India)
Backpacking in India is one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. We were there for 3 months and you can get by on a budget of $10 per day without sacrificing your experience. So if you’re already spent a few days in Kolkata (Calcutta), then take a train to the Northeast side of India, through Darjeeling and into Sikkim province.
This is an autonomous region of India, a landlocked state located in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, with Nepal to the west, Tibet to the North and Bhutan to the East. Remember though, you are required to get an entry permit from the Tourism office in Darjeeling (aside from your Indian tourist visa). From here you can visit high-altitude lakes and experience once-in-a-lifetime mountain trekking.
This is completely a different side of India where you will find mixed cultures and traditions of Nepalese, Bhutanese and Tibetans all in one region. If you love trekking or even paragliding, then this is also one of the best and cheapest places in the world to try it!
Traveling in Peru is fairly cheap already, (the only major expense is the flight from Asia,) so you can easily flash pack with a $25 per day budget in this place! And if you’re already in Peru, you no doubt want to head straight to Cuzco for Machu Picchu, but don’t forget to head to the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca in Puno.
Half of Lake Titicaca sits within the Peruvian boundary, with the other half being part of Bolivia. From Puno you can take lake tours to a series of floating islands where local Peruvians live and work in the same way they have for generations.
If you have time, travel from Puno into Bolivia to see the Bolivian side of the lake, which is far more tranquil and less developed.
Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu are major highlights for anyone visiting Peru, but many miss out on this incredible ‘White City’ in the South of Peru. It’s called the White City due to the white volcanic stone that most of the old city is constructed from.
Standing in the old Plaza de Armas, you’ll almost feel like you’re in Vigan! Arequipa is also the home of the second deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon, and the immense Condor, a vulture type bird with a wingspan second only to the albatross.
If you will backpack through Peru we highly suggest this route: Lima-Cuzco-Arequipa-Puno, before heading to the neighboring country of Bolivia.
If you’re already in Peru, why not go straight to its neighboring country, Bolivia, for a serious dose of culture and history. La Paz, Bolivia is another overnight bus (17 hours) away from Cuzco and you can easily cross the border by land. La Paz is the highest Capital City in the world and is almost like a time warp of Latin American and indigenous cultures, with 1950s public buses, art deco buildings and even some historic architecture designed by Gustave Eiffel, the engineer behind the Eiffel Tower!
From the capital you can head straight to the incredible Uyuni Salt Flats for a 3-day 4-wheel-drive adventure. The salt flats are a dried lake of salt which when combined with seasonal rainfall, transform into a pristine liquid mirror! Check out the photo and see for yourself.
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Parque Nacional de Manuel Antonio, in Western Costa Rica is 682 hectares of luscious, jungle paradise, packed with one of the most biodiverse natural habitats in the world; rain forest, a huge diversity of wildlife and spectacular coral reefs.
The whole of the coastline, including the beaches and the sea itself, has been protected since 1972, so development in the area has all but halted completely. It remains a corner of tranquility and a natural habitat to several types of monkeys, sloths, racoons. sea turtles, coral species and even rare species of birds which have recently been reintroduced to area, like magnificent Scarlet Macaws.
The small town of Manuel Antonio is situated right outside the national park itself, with several stunning beaches between the park gates and the nearby town of Quepos, where you’ll find a marina packed with sport fishing boats and even a luxury super yacht or two.
For adventure junkies, there are loads thrill-filled adventure sports to choose from, like surfing, canyoning, quad biking, zip-lining and much more! Only a 3 hour shuttle away, or a one hour flight, from San Jose and in easy reach of the less-travelled southern regions, Manuel Antonio is perfectly situated as base for exploring the south of Costa Rica, like the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park.
NOTE: The following cities DO require a visa, such as a Schengen, in order to enter, some of which have a longer application process, but if you are able and willing, then they are great backpacking locations and are simply too incredible to miss out on.
The only thing that’s stopping us Filipinos to go to visa-required countries like the United Kingdom and Europe is the visa process, but once you're there, backpacking in these countries are really easy. That's given the availability of cheap bus companies, free entrance fee to museums and tourist attractions, also wide range of backpacking hostels everywhere
Chile is one of the most expensive countries to visit in South America but if you head down to Patagonia in the South then the prices can be cheaper. You can easily hitchhike or pitch a tent by the side of the road to save on accommodation, but also to experience a true adventure.
Here you find mountains akin to the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand, combined with the largest glacial ice fields in South America, slowly melting to feed into a vast network of turquoise rivers and lakes, with water so pure you can drink it! Chile is not well known for it’s cuisine, but while in Patagonia, you have to try the salmon, it’s some of the freshest fish you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Known for centuries as a center for education in Britain and the rest of Europe, Scotland’s capital and second most populous city is a hive of culture, history, magic and mystery. Its historic center, which has remained largely unchanged for centuries, is unrivaled in its magnificence and grandeur, while Edinburgh Castle itself appears as if it could withstand any modern-day attack.
While clearly not as cheap as traveling in Asia, here, you can get a hostel dorm bed for around $15-20 per night and dining costs can be as low as $7-8 if you shop smart and make good use of hostel kitchens where available.
You can easily pass the days here just wandering the ancient streets, soaking up the stories and the magic, but there are a few attractions that simply should not be missed; the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August is the largest arts festival in the world; a tour inside Edinburgh Castle is expensive but well worth it; Climb Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano; eat haggis and neeps; Climb to the top of Nelson’s Column.
The meeting point of two continents, Istanbul is one of the oldest cities in the world, with evidence of civilizations as far back as 3000 BC. Its strategic position has made the city a center for trade between three continents and a mixing pot of cultures and traditions ever since its conception, having been ruled by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and eventually the Ottoman Turks, whose descendants govern Istanbul to this day.
There is so much to see in this incredible city, which earned the title European Capital of Culture in 2010, that you could easily spend weeks exploring.
But for those with time constraints, here are the must dos: Visit the Topkapi Palace and the Ottoman Royal Jewels; see the Hagia Sophia, a Roman built cathedral-turned-mosque from 537; feast on Turkey’s varied cuisine; go shopping and get lost in the Grand Bazaar; visit a Hammam for a serious spa scrub down; ride the second oldest underground train line and vintage red trams.
Quite easily one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, this sizzling hot plate of arts, history, culture and architecture. There is no ‘historic center’ as such to form a single focal point like many European cities, as the entire city oozes style and magnificence.
You can spend days exploring the life works of Antoni Gaudi – the city’s most famous architect and artist – including the spellbinding Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Parque Guell.
It’s not all about Gaudi though, step back in time with a visit to the old Gothic Quarter, get cultural at the Picasso and Dali art museums, then relax on the beach in the afternoon.
If you have extra time and a little more spending money, head to the Arabic baths, hidden deep beneath the city streets, for pampering treatments and hot spring pools that will have you melting into the floor by the time you emerge!
No matter your budget, interests, and passions, whether you’re a city slicker or a rough and rugged mountain explorer, go on and travel for the best of all these worlds. – Rappler.com