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Five Best Countries to Backpack on a Budget on Your Gap Year

Written by Alice McLeod on 07 / 11 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Your gap year is a chapter of your life where endless possibilities await to finally tick off some of those bucket list moments you’ve been planning. It's a time for self-discovery, personal growth, and unforgettable experiences. One of the most enriching ways to spend your gap year is by embarking on a backpacking adventure, immersing yourself in diverse cultures, and exploring far-off lands. But, let's face it, gap years often come with budget constraints. That's why we've crafted this blog post to guide you through the top five countries that offer a perfect blend of affordability and adventure. So, whether you're a recent school graduate or a university student on a break, these budget-friendly destinations will not only stretch your pounds but also make your gap year an action-packed and enjoyable experience. Get ready to explore the five best countries to backpack on a budget on your gap year.


Asia is the first place we think of when we think of cheap travel. If you’re also planning a gap year trip to Australia, where a night in a hostel is roughly £35 a night, then if you hop over to Asia then you’ll really notice the price difference. South East Asia is generally where you’ll find the best prices, and the good news is that it has some well-established backpacker routes, making it easier than ever to travel around.


Cambodia offers a rich cultural experience with stunning temples like UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat and beautiful landscapes. Accommodation, food, and transportation are generally affordable, making it a great choice for budget travellers. Cambodia is one of Asia's cheapest countries so it's a great place to either start or finish your travels, as your money will take you further; it's also really easy to link with other SE Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand (you can find a 3 month itinerary linking these three countries together here).

Price of a pint: 80p

Average night in a hostel: £7


Vietnam is famous for its street food, beautiful coastline, and diverse landscapes. You can find inexpensive hostels and guesthouses, and street food is incredibly affordable. Transportation within the country is also budget-friendly, with overnight buses and sleeper trains available at very affordable prices.

Price of a pint: 85p

Average night in a hostel: £6


India is known for its diverse culture, delicious cuisine, and historic sites. You can find budget accommodation, and street food is incredibly cheap. Transportation by train or bus is also very affordable. Prepare yourself for hustle and bustle, and just about every noise, sight, and smell all happening around you all at once! Be prepared for a bit of a sensory overload, but in return you’ll get some of the lowest prices around.

Price of a pint: £2

Average night in a hostel: £10

Central/South America:

Central/South America remains ever-popular with gap year travellers due to its huge range of landscapes, easy transport links, and low cost. Not all countries will offer you those sweet backpacker prices though, places like Costa Rica can be just as pricey as the UK. Stepping off the beaten track means you’ll not only find those hidden gems, but at a traction of the price of the main tourist hotspots.


Bolivia offers a unique travel experience with its stunning landscapes, including the Uyuni Salt Flats. Accommodation and food are relatively inexpensive, and you can explore the country's attractions on a budget. If you're an adventure lover then Bolivia is the place for you, especially if you're someone who enjoys trekking – it has some of the most beautiful treks in South America. Read our Bolivia itinerary for inspiration.

Price of a pint: £1.80

Average night in a hostel: £7


Nicaragua is known for its affordability, with inexpensive hostels, food, and transportation. You can explore its beautiful beaches, Mayan sites, volcanoes, and historic cities on a budget. It’s considerably cheaper than some of its neighbours such as Costa Rica, and you can expect to pay around half of what you’d pay for a hostel in CR. Win win. You can find our Nicaragua itinerary here.

Price of a pint: £1.30

Average night in a hostel: £11


There you have it, five ideas to get the ball rolling. You don’t have to do your entire gap year on a shoestring budget, and there will inevitably be some big-ticket splurges along the way, but it’s good to know which countries will make your hard-earned money stretch a little further. There’s a multitude of ways to make your cash last longer, from getting a job overseas to hunting down the places where the locals eat and hang out. Transport is likely to always be your biggest expense, with flights taking a big chunk out of your budget, but you can try and save money by staying in shared rooms in hostels and eating local street food


How much do I need to save for my gap year? This will totally depend on where you go, what activities you do etc, but we recommend budgeting on average around £1000 a month. it can of course be done for much more or much less, but it's a good starting point.

What are the best gap year destination in Europe? If you're wanting budget European options then your best best is heading to Eastern Europe. You can read our guide to interrailing here.

How do I save the money for my gap year? Sadly there's no secret to this one, you have to get a job and save every penny you can. We have some gap year job ideas here.

Related Articles:

The perfect Australia backpacker itinerary

Hostel etiquette for gap year students

Asia, Africa, or South America, which is better for backpacking?

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