Six common ways to make friends and meet people when travelling

6 Ways to make Travel Buddies!

This article is primarily designed for first-time backpackers. Many people are put off the idea of solo travel because they hate the thought of being alone away from home and aren’t sure how to make friends and meet people when travelling.

These days though, in theory at least, it is easier than ever to make travel buddies and meet local people and this page offers six of the most common ways friendships are formed on the road:

1. Use Couchsurfing

how to meet people and make friend as a backpacker

Image via Alex Johnson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Couchsurfing is perhaps the most guaranteed way to find someone to hang out with. You may already be aware of it but to summarise almost all towns and cities around the world have some form of couchsurfing community and many have thousands of people willing to let travellers stay for a night or two on their couch or in a spare room. The review system ensures it is pretty safe and as well as the obvious benefit of getting somewhere free to stay, you immediately meet a local person who will be able to advise you on things to see and do. Chances are they will also be willing to hang out with you and perhaps even invite you along to meet their friends so it’s a great way to meet some locals which isn’t always easy when you stay in hostels.

Even if staying with strangers isn’t necessarily your thing, then it’s still well worth joining the site. Most towns have regular couchsurfing events or evenings in local bars (which are advertised on the site) where you can just head there alone and meet both locals and other travellers. Meanwhile many members, who don’t have space in their home, just want to meet up and maybe show you some of their town.

Join couchsurfing here (it’s free!)

2. Stay in Hostel Dorms

In terms of meeting other travellers, hostel dorms are the best place to be. Most backpacker friendships are still formed that way. They are generally full of other solo travellers or people travelling in small groups. Obviously some people are friendlier than others but it’s highly probable that there’ll be other people in your dorm who are in the same position and will be keen to socialise so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation.

Most hostels do have both mixed and male/female only dorms so you can take your pick. It’s certainly true that in many hostels and particularly dorms, there are people that are looking for a bit more than just friendship. You can always ask to move to another dorm if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable but generally speaking they are sociable places and full of potential travel buddies.

Read our Basic guide to staying in Hostels if you’re not sure what to expect from a backpackers hostel.

3. Use Apps that help you meet people.

Even over the past five years alone, the huge rise of mobile apps has made meeting people at home and abroad much easier. If you’re single then there’s no reason why you can’t use dating apps to find a bit of romance on the road as you might at home. Even if you just want to make friends, apps like tinder can be very useful to quickly get in touch with locals but it’s best to be very clear that it’s only friendship you’re after.

Meetup is another really useful site/app that lists events and gatherings going on in your vicinity and if it’s a reasonably large town you are in, there are probably many things going on through the day that you can get involved with and meet some people. Couchsurfing’s app is also worth downloading to your phone as it lists people who currently want to hang out.

Finally don’t forget about your current social media accounts. If you’re pretty active on them and have a reasonable following/friend circle and openly broadcast your travel plans, you might just be surprised to find friends or friends of friends who will be in the same area at the same time as you.

4. Sign up for excursions, trips, walking tours and bar crawls

Most towns of a reasonable size and almost all popular tourist towns and cities will at least have a free or very cheap walking tour that you can join. Ask in your hostel about this and it’s a great way to see the sights and learn more about them than you would doing it alone. Generally there will be a reasonably large number of people on the tour and it should be fairly easy to get chatting to someone, particularly if they also appear to be alone.

Where there’s a walking tour, there’s probably also a pub crawl (e.g. Pub Crawl Madrid). Many big cities and party towns will have nightly pub/bar crawls that you can join and that’s another very good way to meet other travellers. Whether you’ll remember anyone you met the next day is another question but it’s a good option if you want to have a fun night out, which is pretty hard to do if it’s just you.

If nature is more your thing than getting wasted with horny strangers then consider going joining excursions rather than just doing your own thing all the time. Again the hostel is probably the best place to ask about this. Most hostels work with other hostels in that town to organise excursions and trips to local places of interest so chances are you’ll be able to make some friends on them that you could potentially hang out with that evening or the following day.

5. Hang out in hostel or traveller bars.

making friends when travelling

Image via Steve Haslam, CC BY-SA 2.0

Like it or not, drinking is a pretty big part of the travelling and hostelling culture and bars tend to be the hub of the social activity. Even if you don’t drink or aren’t a big drinker yourself, heading to a hostel or traveller-geared bar is a decent idea as a last resort if all the other methods fail. Certainly if you are someone who prefers private rooms or are in a country where dorms aren’t that easily found, the bar is the next easiest place to potentially make some travel buddies.

As with the bar crawls, alcohol naturally makes people a bit more sociable and even if you’re just sitting there on your own, reading a book or sending some messages/e-mails there’s a good chance you’ll find someone to chat too.

6. Speak to people on trains, buses & planes.

Some travellers are perhaps too quick to write this off as a way to make friends but the train/bus/plane into your next destination is actually a great opportunity to find someone to hang out with even before you’ve arrived!

It does help if you’re a naturally confident person but even if you’re not the task isn’t as hard as it sounds. Travelling for hours on end can be a boring experience so most people are welcome for any kind of distraction and it’s pretty easy to tell those who aren’t in the mood for a chat. In most places, locals will be naturally curious as to your experience in their country and will probably have many questions and recommendations.

Other travellers, who are probably heading to the same place as you are also very easy to spot. If you’re travelling on a train, you can just go up to people and ask them where they are heading or if they have somewhere to stay. With buses, generally there will be several stops at service stations or roadside cafes, when people get off and stretch their legs or have a cigarette. This is the best time to strike up a conversation. If you’ve not got accommodation sorted, you can suggest looking for somewhere together or head to the same hostel as them if they have something booked. Therefore in no time you potentially have someone to hang out with over the next few days.

 

If you are a first-time traveller, you can find more tips and suggestions in our Backpacker Basics section.

 


 This article was published in April 2017.


Barcelona on a Budget

Barcelona Travel Guide

Barcelona on the cheap


Arriving in Barcelona & Getting to the Centre

Barcelona-El Prat Airport

Most visitors to Barcelona arrive at the city’s main airport – El Prat. These days even most of the budget airlines use it and it is the only international airport within close proximity to the city.

  • Aerobus

Most tourists take the aerobus to get into the city. It runs every 5-10 minutes during the day and takes roughly 30 minutes to get from the airport to Plaza Catalunya in the heart of Barcelona depending on traffic and costs €5.90. Line A1 leaves from outside Terminal 1 while A2 leaves from Terminal 2 but they follow the same route and also stop at Plaza Espanya, which may be more convenient depending on the location of your accommodation. Be sure to get the right one for your terminal if you are returning to the airport at the end of your stay in Barcelona.

  • Train

The cheapest way to get from Barcelona Airport to Barcelona is to take the train. It leaves from the station at Terminal 2 (free shuttle buses run to Terminal 1) and your best bet is probably going to be a T-10 ticket, which gives you 10 journeys on all public transport in Barcelona for the duration of your stay. This way the cost of your trip into the city will work out at roughly €1. Trains take 20 minutes to reach Barcelona Sants Station and 25 minutes to Passeig de Gràcia. You can connect to the metro at either station and it won’t cost you any more as you have 1 hour 15 minutes to complete one journey on the T-10 ticket (more info in the ‘getting around the city’ section).

  • Metro

There is also a newly opened metro line (as of February 2016) that connects the metro network to Barcelona Airport with stations at both Terminal 1 and 2. However it’s not covered by normal metro tickets so it will cost €4.50 for a ticket to anywhere in the city and will take considerably longer to reach your destination as you’ll have to change trains at Europa Fira if you are heading to the centre. Overall the metro isn’t a great option for getting into the central parts of the city.

Girona & Reus Airports

Budget airlines sometimes fly to these airports and misleadingly refer to them as Barcelona airports. They are not! Both airports are approximately 100km from the city and will take in excess of 1 hour 30 minutes via the bus services that link the airports to the Catalan capital. A return ticket from either airport to Barcelona will cost around €25. Buses aren’t that regular but are usually timed to coincide with flights landing at the rarely used airports. The Girona-Barcelona buses end at Barcelona’s Estacio del Nord whereas Reus-Barcelona buses head to Barcelona Sants Station and you’ll still most likely have to connect to the metro to reach your accommodation. Depending on the time of your arrival, you may be able to connect with a train too.

By Train

Barcelona Sants Train Station is the main railway station in the city for domestic travel and the high-speed lines to France and beyond. It isn’t in a particularly central location but is connected to the metro network so it’s easy to catch a local train to your destination in the city. The same is true of Passeig de Gràcia and Estació de França which are the other main train stations and are more central than Sants although aren’t served by as many trains. For train times and booking tickets in Spain and around Catalonia see Renfe. Booking several weeks in advance is advisable, certainly on the high-speed lines, as prices do usually go up nearer the date of travel.

By Bus

Barcelona Nord is where you’ll almost certainly arrive if coming in by bus. There are 18 buses per day to/from Madrid for example so it’s a busy terminus and you can walk from the station to Arc de Triomf or Marina metro stations and it’s not far from the heart of the city so you might even be able to walk to your desired destination. Some buses also go to/from Sants Bus Station. The biggest bus company in Spain is Alsa, which has routes to almost all the major Spanish cities from Barcelona. Travelling by bus in Spain is much cheaper than the train but generally much slower. Advanced booking is advisable for longer trips but it only needs to be done a day or two in advance and prices are fixed.


Budget accommodation in Barcelona

Barcelona has an enormous choice of hostels and budget accommodation. Dorm beds start at around €15/night during the week and more like €18/night at the weekend, which is a bit more expensive than most other cities in Spain. You can usually find something a bit cheaper during the winter months but during peak season (May to September), the city is very crowded with visitors and many of the better hostels sell out quickly.

When deciding where to stay, location is perhaps the biggest factor to consider as most hostels offer a similar kind of quality at a similar price. You might consider Plaza Catalunya as being the very mid-point of the city so anything within a 1km walk of that would certainly be considered very central. That being said in Barcelona, the metro is very extensive and it’s not a huge city so it’s not the end of the world if you’re not right in the heart of town. Many of the main sights are not in the centre anyway.

In the summer months, you could opt to stay closer to the beaches, the nearest of which is 20-30 minutes walk from the city centre. If you want a more local vibe and perhaps a more authentic Barcelona experience then consider staying in Gracia, which is away from the touristy centre but still well-located for Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia, and less than 10 minutes by metro to La Rambla.

Recommended Hostels in Barcelona

Factory Gardens – This stylish hostel is in a local neighbourhood close to the Sagrada Familia and offers some of the best value-for-money you’ll find amongst the budget accommodation options in Barcelona.

Hip Karma Hostel – This is another reliable choice and they often slash prices to 10 Euros/night during less busy times if you book online. It’s well located being less than 10 minutes walk from the city’s main square – Plaza Catalunya and biggest park – Parc de la Ciutadella.

Kabul Party Hostel – As the name suggests, this a good place to stay for those looking to party. It’s a sociable place and very well located in the heart of the old Gothic quarter, just a few feet from La Rambla and near to many bars and clubs.

Airbnb is also a decent option in Barcelona and you can sometimes find cheaper deals there. Sign up for Airbnb and claim €35 free credit here.


Getting around the city

Barcelona travel guide

Picture via Miquel Lleixà Mora, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On Foot

In the Old Town and central districts, you can generally get around on foot. Even the closer beaches are fairly accessible by walking from the centre with Barceloneta Beach around 20 minutes walk from La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter.

Metro

Barcelona isn’t a massive city but some of the main sights are quite spread out so you will certainly need to make use of public transport at some point. Barcelona has an excellent (when it’s not on strike) metro network that will get you anywhere you need to go and you’ll rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train.

The best option for almost all visitors to the city is to get the T10 1 Zone ticket. This will give you 10 journeys to anywhere in the city for €9.95 and can be used on buses, trains, trams and the metro. Unless you are planning any day trips out of Barcelona, you won’t need more than Zone 1 as it covers the entire city and you can even get to the nearby beach of Montgat without leaving this zone.

The metro runs until midnight (Sunday to Thursday), 2:00am (Fridays and public holidays) and all night on Saturdays. During the day, you can get to pretty much everywhere you need to go by a combination of metro/walking.

Buses

It’s probably simpler and quicker to just use the metro when it’s open. However after the metro shuts, the nightbuses become your best option and they are pretty extensive so you should still be able to get where you need to go or close to it. You can still use the T-10 ticket on buses. You validate it by using the machine on-board the buses.

Taxis

Overall Barcelona’s transport network is really good value when compared to other major European cities and if you’re only in town for 2-3 days, you should be able to get by on just the one T10 ticket. Budget travellers in Barcelona won’t really find much need to use taxis, which typically cost about €2 per kilometre.

Cycling

Another option is to cycle around the city. There are plenty of cycle lanes and the city’s Bicing scheme is popular although it’s virtually impossible for short-term visitors to use, as you need an address in Catalonia. There are though many bike rental places dotted around town and it’s a nice way to see the city although almost certainly will work out more expensive than just using the T-10 ticket on public transport.


How to see Barcelona on a Budget

Barcelona city guide

Barcelona is a city that is designed perfectly for the weekend visitor with money to spend and it’s unquestionably one of the most popular short-break destinations in the world. Most first-time visitors end up doing pretty much the same thing with a handful of main tourist attractions taking up most of their time. The most popular of which include the Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi masterpiece that still hasn’t been finished but continues to tower above the city, Gaudi’s Casa Batlló and Barcelona Football Club, one of the world’s greatest.

The problem for budget travellers is that these are not cheap places and the city seems to have responded to the economic crisis by really cashing in on tourism, although it doesn’t seem to have put people off coming. A basic entrance ticket for the Sagrada Familia for example is a hefty €15 and there is nothing much in the way of info inside so to get much out of your visit, you will at least need to get the audio tour, which is another €7. A ticket for a Barcelona match at Camp Nou will invariably set you back at least €45 these days and often more while a stadium & museum tour is €23. Even many of things that aren’t particularly worth visiting aren’t cheap with a frankly disappointing Aquarium charging €18 being a good example. The point being a few days in Barcelona can easily become very expensive if you are not careful.

These prices are all ‘online prices’ which are typically less than at the door where you may face long queues, certainly at the Sagrada Familia. Therefore booking online is one way to save a bit of cash. Inevitably though if you are in Barcelona on a budget, you are going to have to pick and choose to some extent and you mustn’t feel obliged to enter every single attraction.

The Sagrada Familia in all honestly is much more impressive from the outside and unless you are truly passionate about churches, you might be wise to skip the queues and fees for going inside and instead perhaps head to Gaudi’s House & Museum, which is more informative and considerably cheaper.

Likewise if you’re not that fussed about football, you don’t have to feel obliged to go and watch what will probably be a very one-sided match. The cheapest tickets are right at the top of the stadium and don’t offer a great view given Camp Nou is Europe’s largest football stadium and holds nearly 100,000. If you’re a football fan but in town when Barcelona aren’t playing, the city’s other team Espanyol probably will be and tickets are much more reasonably priced for their games and you can get closer to the action for much less.

If you have a set budget then it’s perhaps best picking one attraction each day that you are really keen on going for and then spending the rest of the day on foot exploring the city. With the T10 metro ticket you can see basically the whole city in a few days and you can still have the full Barcelona experience without getting sucked into every tourist trap, of which there are many!

As you’ll see from the list below, there are many fantastic free things to do in Barcelona. Indeed you can still do an awful amount without ever paying any admission fees, which are the things that really can break even a mid-range travel budget in Barcelona.


Five Free things to do in Barcelona

Barcelona things to do

Picture via Montse Poch, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gaudi tour

Barcelona is full of Gaudi masterpieces. Spend an afternoon exploring the city on foot going from one to the next. They are all most impressive from the outside and you don’t need to pay any money to look! You can easily learn more about each building by doing a bit of your own research online so it’s not hard to get to grips with Gaudi’s Barcelona without spending a single cent! Here are 10 of Gaudi’s most famous Barcelona buildings.

Walk La Rambla

The most famous street in Barcelona is well worth a walk from one end to the other just to experience its hustle and bustle. There are several nuisance factors on La Rambla but if you ignore the drug dealers and keep an eye on your pockets it’s nothing more than that. The street is perhaps most famous for its street performers and bizarre human statues and on any given day you are sure to find something or someone who will capture your interest for a few minutes.

Park Güell

A must visit for anyone visiting Barcelona.  Not only is Park Guell, a beautiful place to relax and spend an hour or so, it has two major draws. Firstly it is the location of Gaudi’s house (or one of them), now a museum. Secondly it offers stunning views of the city and is one of the best spots to capture a few panoramic photographs of the BCN skyline. Another great location for this is the nearby Bunker del Carmel, while you can also get good views from Montjuic, site of most of Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics venues as well as the city’s castle.

Watch a Barcelona game in a local bar

Okay so you might have to pay a Euro for a drink but it’s important to re-hydrate right? With ticket prices so high at Camp Nou and the stands usually full of tourists, arguably a more authentic and certainly cheaper experience these days is to just find a local bar and watch the game on TV.

Many Barca fans only go to the stadium for the very biggest matches and settle for watching the majority of league games in a bar. If you are visiting Barcelona on a budget you might be wise to do the same unless catching a game at Camp Nou has been a lifelong dream of yours. Consider heading to the streets around the stadium to catch a bit of the pre-match buzz and atmosphere and then head to one of the many nearby bars and cafes to watch the match itself. All Barcelona games (home & away) are screened live in what often seems like virtually every bar/restaurant in the city.

Go to the Beach

Barcelona has a fantastic climate and it’s warm enough to go to the beach for roughly half of the year. Certainly from June to September you can basically rely on it being warm and sunny while it’s often still warm enough in both May and October. In the summer months, the beaches are packed and there are many ways to enjoy them. You can simply relax and take in the sun, spend the day drinking with friends (beer guys generally move up and down the beach selling cheap cold cans) or for the more active join a game of volleyball or go surfing.

More on all this in the next section!


Beaches

Best beaches in Barcelona

From Barcelona, you have access to a huge number of beaches.

City Beaches

The beaches in Barcelona itself might not be the most beautiful but they are the most convenient and liveliest. They do get extremely busy in the summer months particularly Barceloneta, which is an easy walk from the centre of the city. If you follow the coast round from Barceloneta you reach Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella and Llevant. There are officially 10 different beaches but in reality it is one long stretch of sand with a short break at Port Olimpic, which is a good place to grab lunch. You can stroll from one end to the other in about an hour. Each beach has its own flavour with gay-friendly Mar Bella having a nudist section while Bogatell has more recreational facilities such as volleyball courts and football pitches.

Just Outside the City

  • Montgat

Montgat Beach is a long stretch of white sand only 20 minutes by train from Placa Catalunya (journey covered by the T-10 pass). It’s usually much quieter and nicer than the city beaches and you have a genuine feel of having left the city.

  • Castelldefels

Heading the other way out of Barcelona you find the wide and very long Castelldefels beach which is about 30 minutes by train from Passeig de Gracia station in the city centre. If you’re planning to spend most or all the day on the beach then both are better options than the ones in the city unless you don’t mind the crowds.

Further Out

If you start early then you can do a day trip out to one of the best beaches in the region. To the North, the Costa Brava is 1 hour 30 minutes away by train while heading South options include gay-friendly Sitges and it’s multiple small beaches, the Roman town of Tarragona and the popular resort of Salou. All three can be reached in an hour or less with fares under €10 if you take the cheaper trains. Check Renfe for times and prices.

Spain is full of fantastic beach destinations. More feature in our backpacking route for Spain and Portugal.


Eating Out on a Budget

Snacks

Barcelona is not short on excellent restaurants but if you’re travelling on a budget, finding good value isn’t always easy, when you don’t know the city. For cheap daytime snacks/drinks, check out 100 montaditos, which is a budget chain that serves dirt cheap drinks (€1.50 for una jarra of beer (nearly a pint) and small tapas-style sandwiches known as montaditos (little burgers) from €1. They are at numerous sites around the city so wherever you are, there should be one close. They are also a good bet for cheap drinks at the start of the night. On Wednesdays and Sundays they slash prices further to 1 Euro for everything on the menu!

All-you-can-eat!

If you’re really hungry, then the buffet options can provide decent value and should fill you up for the best part of the day. There are numerous options around town with FrescCo perhaps the best one with all-you-can eat from €10-12 depending on the time of day and including a drink.

Restaurants

If you want to enjoy a meal out in a restaurant but are on a relatively tight budget then it’s probably best to avoid La Rambla and the streets right next to it. Often they advertise good deals on food but will really take advantage of you in terms of drinks. Normally in Spain, beers come smaller than in other European countries. However if you ask for a large beer on La Rambla, you’re often served something more like a litre of beer and charged €10-15 for it! Paseig de Gracia is another expensive area for eating out but Barcelona does have some cheaper districts.

Raval is one such area, which has some really budget-friendly options. It is a multicultural zone so you’ll find cuisines from all around the world with everything from curryhouses to Mexian restaurants. Rosa Raval is a tasty Mexican joint with affordable cocktails while nearby Carrer de Joaquin Costa has a few budget-friendly vegetarian restaurants.

You can find the odd gem in El Born too but restaurants do change hands quite regularly and quality goes up and down so it’s worth checking the latest reviews. Foodie in Barcelona and Spotted by Locals are two blogs worth checking out for suggestions for cheap restaurants in Barcelona.

It’s worth noting that most restaurants in Barcleona won’t start serving food until after 8:00pm and that would still be early for locals to head out to eat. Many eat their biggest meal of the day at lunch-time and something lighter later on.


Nightlife

Going out in Barcelona

Picture via Matt Cornish, CC BY-NC 2.0

Barcelona’s nightlife, like that in the rest of Spain, starts and ends late. Bars typically stay open till 3:00am, which is about the best time to start heading to clubs, most of which stay open till 6:00am.

Cheap Drinks

If you want to have a cheap night out, then it is probably best to start by buying a few drinks from a supermarket, with prices very low for beer, wine and spirits. Note that after 10:00pm, shops aren’t allowed to sell alcohol although some smaller places might if you ask nicely!

Either way it’s best to stock up prior to that and have a few drinks in your hostel before going out. Alternatively you could just head down to the beach or harbour area (at the bottom of La Rambla & left) and start your night drinking there, which is what many locals do. There are Pakistani guys who sell beers in the streets in both locations and in most of the city centre until late, so you can usually buy a small cold can of Estrella off them for €1 at any time of night. Therefore you can be approaching very drunk for less than €10 in Barcelona and won’t need to buy as many drinks later in the night.

Bars

In terms of bars, the old town is probably the best spot for budget travellers. There are hundreds of really small bars dotted around the winding streets of the old town. Generally speaking, Raval which has a bit of an alternative vibe, is marginally cheaper than the Gothic quarter but most bars have signs outside advertising drinks deals so you can wander around and pick one that takes your fancy or just turn it into a bar crawl. Beer and wine is still generally fairly cheap in bars but cocktails and spirits often cost €7-10 although they are strong.

Clubs

When planning a night out, choosing a club to go to is perhaps the biggest decision. You can get in some clubs for free during the week before a certain time but at the weekend there are hefty admission fees at almost all the main clubs so once you are in one, you will generally stay there until the night is out. €20 is typical for admission but it does normally include at least one drink and often two (con consumición). You simply take the ticket to the bar and exchange the voucher for any drink of your choice. Cocktails and spirits are usually very strong in Spain so you night not need more than a couple anyway!

Barcelona has a wide choice of clubs of varying quality. Of course it depends on your music preferences but popular options include Razzmatazz, a huge former factory which now hosts thousands of party-goers each weekend. It has an under-stated vibe with no real dress-code and also hosts live music events. There are multiple floors with many different rooms playing a variety of different genres so it’s a safe bet, particularly if you’re a large group and people have different tastes in music.

Razzmatazz is typically only open at weekends though so in the week, Sala Apolo, is perhaps the most popular bet for a cheap-ish night. It has regular student nights and is widely thought of as the best party early in the week with ‘Nasty Mondays’ and ‘Crappy Tuesdays’ still going strong.

For a more urban vibe, check out Otto Zutz. It’s located a fair way from the centre in Gracia and tends to attract a more local crowd. It is a smaller venue though so you might want to get there bit earlier than the typical 2:00-3:00 to ensure you get in as it is very popular.



 This article was published in March 2017.


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Five Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations

Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations

With gorgeous beaches and crystal blue seas, the Caribbean has long since been one of the world’s most appealing travel destinations. However finding a way to visit on a budget can be a real challenge with accommodation costs typically quite high. If you’re travelling with a group of friends, luxury Caribbean vacations can become relatively affordable by sharing the costs of renting a villa.

If you really want to keep costs down though, you have to be a bit selective when choosing your destination. Here we list five places where you can experience a touch of Caribbean luxury whilst keeping costs relatively low.

Five Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations

Bay Islands, Honduras

backpacking in the bay islands

via John Colby, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Bay Islands still remain something of a secret gem. Travellers either have never heard of them or are simply put off by the dangerous reputation that Honduras undoubtedly has. Some of its cities may be rough, crime-ridden places but the Bay Islands are as close as it really come to a budget friendly Caribbean paradise.

The clear waters and abundant marine life makes this a great snorkelling and diving destination and it is a popular stop for backpackers in Central America. Unlike most other Caribbean islands, you don’t need to fly to get in with ferries leaving the Honduran mainland city of La Ceiba, twice a day. With dorm beds, cheap food and inexpensive activities, this is probably the cheapest of our five budget friendly Caribbean destinations.

Jamaica

via Frank Roche, CC BY-NC 2.0

Jamaica is one of the few islands that attracts backpackers and budget-minded travellers in any sort of quantity. Some of the towns and beach destinations are wising up to this and you can find budget accommodation from around $15/night in Ocho Rios or Kingston for example and with everything else fairly affordable, you ought to be able to get by on $40/day if you are on a tight budget.

With regular flights into either Kingston or Montego Bay from Europe and North America, it’s one of the most accessible countries in the Caribbean too. While like almost everywhere in the region, beaches are a big attraction, Jamaica has a strong cultural identity and for a nation of just 3 million people, it has achieved great international success in fields such as sport and music. Just travelling around the island and visiting different places is a unique experience and helps you to develop a greater understanding of what makes Jamaica tick.

Cuba

There has scarcely been a better time to visit Cuba, with travel restrictions having been eased considerably in recent years. As the largest island in the Caribbean, you have real choice in where to go and it’s perhaps the only country in the region, where you could potentially spend several weeks travelling around with numerous towns of cultural and historical significance.

The best beaches are found by heading East from its fascinating capital Havana and the whole Northern Coast is dotted with great beaches and idyllic islets. Although typical backpacker style accommodation is limited in Cuba, there are reasonably priced homestays and small guesthouses all over the island and the cost of eating/drinking out and transport again is relatively inexpensive.

According to our Cuba shoestring budget, you can get by on as little as $35/day if you are savvy and perhaps less if you’re travelling with a friend and sharing a room.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

via Trip & Travel Blog, CC BY 2.0

The Dominican Republic is the 2nd largest and 3rd most populous Caribbean country after Cuba and neighbouring Haiti. Unlike poverty-stricken Haiti, which takes up the other side of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic has managed to build a thriving travel industry.

Mostly this is geared towards package holidaymakers, who come to one of its many fantastic beach resorts but in Punta Cana at least, it’s very possible to enjoy its golden sands and crystal clear waters on a budget. Dorm beds can be found on Uvero Alto beach from $10/night and although many visit on all-inclusive deals, there is a growing selection of restaurants with cuisine from around the world, so you won’t be stuck for finding somewhere to eat.

There is more than just beach-life to the Dominican Republic though and if you fancy an adventure, head to the Rio Yaque, the longest river in the Caribbean and particularly the town of Jarabacoa, which is a popular rafting destination, home to some impressive waterfalls and cascades.

San Andres, Colombia

via Manuel Villafañe, CC BY-NC 2.0

Although closer to the Central American nations of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, San Andres is a small island owned by Colombia. It lacks the five-star facilities of many other Caribbean islands but that helps to keep prices low and most visitors are Colombians looking for a taste of Caribbean luxury on the cheap.

There are many flights in from the main cities in Colombia as well as Panama City and San Jose (Costa Rica). Therefore it’s a very feasible option for anyone travelling in Central or South America and it’s a long way from the mainland or any other islands, which gives it a real isolated, desert island feel.

Scuba diving and snorkelling are both popular activities, and there are many dirt cheap Colombian restaurants that serve set-meals for the equivalent of only a few dollars so once on the island, it’s possible to get by on a very small budget.

 


 This article was published in March 2017.


Greece Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Greece

(Map of Greece, can be re-used by anyone)


Daily Travel Costs in Greece on a Shoestring Budget

US$45 | 40 Euros

As far as the Mediterranean goes, Greece offers some of the best value not to mention most appealing destinations. Greece has been crippled by economic woe for close to a decade now but prices have gone down as a result and visitors from the US or countries with currencies pegged to the dollar should find it much cheaper now than it was a few years ago. If you’ve been backpacking in the Balkans, particularly if you’re arriving from close neighbours Albania or Macedonia, you may still notice a pretty sharp increase in prices but that’s only relative and travellers heading here from Italy, France, Germany or Spain to Greece should notice the opposite effect to varying degrees.

Hostels are plentiful and pretty affordable by European standards although during the busier summer months, prices can go up and beds can sell out on the islands and coastal destinations. The food is fresh and relatively good value although to stick to our Greece backpacking budget of 40 Euros per day, you’ll need to do some self-catering or settle for cheaper snacks or sandwiches at lunch-time. Travelling around Greece is really good value too and with some advanced planning you can travel the length of the mainland or fly to one of the islands for under 20 Euros.

See where Greece ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in Europe.


More Comfortable Greece Backpacker Budget

US$60 | 55 Euros

If you’re planning on visiting Greece and particularly the more popular islands like Santorini, during the peak summer months then you might want to increase your budget by 10-15 Euros. This will cover the increase in the cost of accommodation and transport due to the big increase in visitors at that time.

At other times of year, adding 15 Euros to your budget would allow you to eat out twice a day or it could be put towards the cost of visiting more of the many Greek islands, which can be a bit of a hassle to get around.


Sample Prices in Greece

Train from Athens to Thessaloniki (5-6 hours) – from €9 (if bought online and in advance)

Flight from Athens to Crete (1 hour) – from €17 plus baggage

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – €10

0.5 Litre beer in bar or restaurant – €3

Dorm bed in Athens – from €10/night

Cheap private twin/double room or apartment in Crete – from €25/night (more during peak summer months)

Entrance to Acropolis in Athens – €20 (€10 during the winter – 1st November to 31st March)

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Greece prices to the cost of travel in Italy


Money

Currency – Euros

£1 = €1.19

US$1 = €0.94

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)


MFT Recommends

With a rooftop terrace and bar and reasonably priced beds, the centrally located Athens Backpackers is the best place to meet other travellers in the heart of the Greek capital.


Street art in Greece

street art in Athens, Greece (via aesthetics of crisisCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Greece recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.


Nepal Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Nepal

(Map of Nepal from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Nepal on a Shoestring Budget

US$20 | 215 Nepalese Rupees

Our Nepal backpacking budget of just $20 per day may not sound a lot but it’s perfectly manageable if you’re a shoestring traveller not looking for much more than to travel around the country whilst experiencing the local culture. Dorm beds and even private rooms shouldn’t set you back more than the equivalent of $5 per night and with local restaurants and local transport also dirt cheap, you should have a bit left-over every day for day-time activities or a few drinks in the evening.

See where Nepal ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.


More Comfortable Nepal Backpacker Budget

US$30 | 325 Nepalese Rupees

Nepal’s tourism is largely centred around trekking and it does attract a fair amount of wealthy visitors as well as backpackers. As a result there are facilities to cater for them in some areas, which can provide you with some temptation to stray above $20/day. By extending your budget to $30 you can add a little bit of luxury into your trip by staying in nicer hotels and dining out at more tourist-geared restaurants from time to time. It will also give you more room to do extra trips and visit more of the best trekking trails, which typically cost $20 to enter.

However if you are looking for more organised trekking expeditions, which is highly recommended if you’re not experienced, then even this budget won’t cover for that. The costs can be quite high for guided trips and to reach the highest points in the Himalayas, it will take many days, which clearly is going to be quite expensive.

If trekking is likely to be the main or a major focus of your trip then use these budgets for the days you won’t be trekking and find a good company for the days you will and research the costs in advance. Here are 10 of the best treks in Nepal along with an idea of the pricing.


Sample Prices in Nepal

Minibus from Kathmandu to Pokhara (roughly 5 hours) – $3.50

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $1.50

0.5 Litre local beer in a bar or restaurant – $2

Dorm bed in Kathmandu – from $4

Typical room in a guesthouse across the country – $5 (slightly more in Kathmandu)

Trekking permits for most trails – $20

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Nepal prices to the cost of travel in India.


Money

Currency – Nepalese Rupee

£1 = 135 NPR

€1 = 114 NPR

US$1 = 108 NPR

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)


MFT Recommends

Definitely get some travel insurance as the risk of getting ill here is higher and public healthcare facilities are of a questionable standard! We suggest using World Nomads.


Street art in Nepal

street art in Kathmandu, Nepal (via Sharon and Peter KomidarCC BY-NC 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Nepal recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.


Colombia Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Colombia

(Map of Colombia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Colombia on a Shoestring Budget

US$30 | 90,000 Colombian Peso

Colombian falls into the category of average South American country in terms of costs. It’s overall perhaps a fraction more expensive than neighbours Ecuador and Peru but compared to our Brazil backpacking budget, you aren’t spending as much and it has got cheaper in recent years thanks to the depreciation of its currency in comparison to the US Dollar, which is used in Ecuador.

The cost of eating and drinking out and most day-time activities are actually pretty similar but what makes Colombia a bit more expensive than its neighbour is its size and the difficulty in getting around it due to its mountainous nature. You’ll need to spend several days on a bus to get from the North Coast to one of its Southern borders and as such are likely to end up spending pushing $200 on transport alone during your time in Colombia. Providing you don’t rush through the country at whirlwind speed, you can get by on around $30/day on average with days where you aren’t travelling to a new town, likely to cost significantly less.

See where Colombia ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in South America.


More Comfortable Colombia Backpacker Budget

US$45 | 135,000 Colombian Peso

If time is of the essence for you then taking a few flights, is the only way to really get to see the best of Colombia in less than a few weeks to a month. With a slightly increased budget, you can take advantage of this and although it’s a shame to miss out on some of the scenery, you will save hours and sometimes days by taking the aerial route. Even if you’re not in a particular rush, bus travel in South America can get tiresome at times and Colombia does have some of the best budget airline options. On $45/day you can afford to fly rather than take the bus for the longer journeys although some advanced booking is advisable in order to secure the better fares.

Alternatively instead of spending your extra $15 on flights, you could upgrade your accommodation from hostel dorm to a decent private room and have money left over for meals and nights out in better restaurants and bars.


Sample Prices in Colombia

Bus from Bogota to Salento (around 8 hours) – around $20

Flight from Bogota to Medellin (1 hour) – from $25 plus baggage when booked in advance with Viva Colombia

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $3

0.5 litre local beer at a bar or restaurant – $1

Dorm bed in Bogota – from $6/night

Private double or twin room in Cartagena – from $16/night

Tour of a coffee plantation in Salento – $5

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Colombia prices to the cost of travel in Peru.


Money

Currency – Colombian Peso

£1 = 3778 COP

€1 = 3183 COP

US$1 = 3003 COP

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

Unlike neighbours Ecuador and Panama, the US Dollar is very rarely accepted so you will need Pesos.


MFT Recommends

Travel insurance is highly advisable. We suggest using World Nomads, who are experts in providing cover for backpackers.


Street art in Colombia

street art in Bogota, Colombia (via -Dj Lu- JuegasiempreCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Colombia recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.

Get our Backpackers Guide to South America 2017-2018  for a full overview of budget travel in the region.


Cuba Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Cuba

(Map of Cuba from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Cuba on a Shoestring Budget

US$35 | 35 CUC

Cuba’s economic and political climate makes it a strange country to visit in many regards and its two-currency system only complicates matters (more on this below). On average Cubans earn just $25 per month yet our suggested shoestring Cuba backpacker budget is $35/day which can take some time to get your head around.

One reason is that locals have an awful amount of basic necessities provided for free via the state, which leaves them with relatively little they need to buy. They are also paid in Cuban Peso rather than the more valuable Cuban convertible peso which is what foreigners use for virtually all transactions, which results in higher prices for visitors. As a result there are almost two separate economies in Cuba and most of your business will be in the pricier tourist-orientated one.

Hostel dorm-type accommodation doesn’t really exist in Cuba so renting private rooms in the homes of people who have a special licence to run what is effectively a small guesthouse (casa particular) is the best value you can really find. As a result paying for accommodation will take up a sizeable chunk of that budget. If you’re travelling solo that can be a real pain but couples or groups travelling together may be able to get by on less than $35 per day by sharing rooms and splitting costs.

Food and drinks are pretty good value and if you speak decent Spanish you might be able to travel on the local buses as opposed to the tourist ones and you’ll make a big saving if you do that. Overall though travelling in Cuba is certainly more expensive than many countries in thee region such as Nicaragua and expenses are roughly similar overall to the cost of travel in Panama with accommodation cheaper in Panama but other things being more expensive to balance it out.

See where Cuba ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in Central America.


More Comfortable Cuba Backpacker Budget

US$45 | 45 CUC

Cuba’s travel industry is still in its relative infancy but it is growing quickly and there are lots of different trips and excursions you can do in almost all the main travel destinations now. While it’s not quite North Korea, it’s not that easy to have a totally independent travel experience in Cuba so you will find yourself having to pay for more organised trips than in other countries. By upping your budget to $45/day you’ll have more freedom to take up these options on a virtually daily basis and it’d be a wise option anyway if you’re travelling alone given the lack of hostel/couchsurfing options.


Sample Prices in Cuba

Transport by Astro Bus (mostly for locals) – $2/hour travelled

Transport by Viazul Bus (mostly for tourists) – $4-5/hour travelled

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $5

Meat & rice at a peso place – $1.50

Cuban Libre or Mojito in a bar or restaurant – $2-3

Private twin or double room in a casa particular – from $20/night

Entrance to Museum of the Revolution in Havana – $8

Horseback riding tour in Trinidad (3 hours) – $15

These prices are as of December 2016. All figures are the same in Cuban Convertible Peso.

Compare Cuba prices to the cost of travel in Mexico.


Money

Currency – Cuban Peso (CUP) /Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)

£1 = 33.37 CUP / 1.26 CUC

€1 = 28.10 CUP / 1.06 CUC

US$1 = 26.50 CUP / 1 CUC

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

Cuba’s two currency system can be quite confusing for newcomers. The Cuban Peso is designed for use by locals while the convertible peso, which is pegged to the US Dollar is aimed at foreigners and the tourism industry. Most of your transactions in Cuba will be in the latter although you may be able to get some basic goods and foods in Cuban Pesos and it’s completely legal to do so. If you speak good Spanish it helps and by eating/shopping regularly in the local places, you can probably get by on a fraction of the budget listed above.

Note that when exchanging US Dollars for CUC at a Cuban back, you will be hit by a 10% conversion fee so Euros, Pounds or Canadian dollars are better currencies to bring.


MFT Recommends

No matter where in the world you go, getting travel insurance is highly advisable! We suggest using World Nomads, who specialise in providing cover for backpackers.


Street art in Cuba

street art in Havana, Cuba


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Cuba recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.


Nicaragua Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Nicaragua

(Map of Nicaragua from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Nicaragua on a Shoestring Budget

US$20 | 580 Nicaraguan Cordoba

Nicaragua is one of those countries where hardcore shoestring types will manage to get by on very little. Getting around the country via the regular local chicken buses as opposed to the tourist buses which have schedules but often don’t stick to them will save you a lot of cash. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America but it’s possible to see the bulk of it for $20 or less in terms of transport costs, if you take the hop-on, hop-off chicken buses everywhere.

Eating local food in local-geared restaurants is also very cheap and usually less than half the cost of the Western alternatives such as burgers and pizza. If you do that and also stay in dorms and use drinking in the hostel as the starting point for your occasional nights out then it shouldn’t be impossible to stick to a budget of $20/day. You will still have to be a bit smart with money and speaking Spanish will be of great help but with attractions normally costing just a $1 or so, there’s not much potential for extra expenditure beyond the basic necessities.

See where Nicaragua ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in countries in Central America.


More Comfortable Nicaragua Backpacker Budget

US$30 | 880 Nicaraguan Córdoba

Some travellers do report back that sticking to $20/day in Nicaragua is very difficult. However many opt for the transport options advertised in the hostels which are geared towards tourists and are often several times more expensive. If you’re not willing to rough it out on the local chicken buses, which can be a bit uncomfortable and rarely offer the most direct route, then you might want to extend your budget slightly towards $30.

Likewise if you’re planning on spending some time surfing in the Pacific, or chilling out on the beautiful Corn Islands in the Caribbean Sea, which are more expensive than the rest of the country, then you may wish to increase your Nicaragua backpacking budget to $30/day but even that is less than our shoestring budget for Panama.


Sample Prices in Nicaragua

Chicken bus or local minibus from Leon to Granada (3 hours including change in Managua) – $3 (some overcharging of foreigners common)

0.5 Litre local beer in bar/restaurant  – $1

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $4

Dorm bed in Leon – from $5/night

Private double or twin room in Granada – from $14/night

Visit to a typical museum – $1-2

Surfboard rental in San Juan del Sur – around $10 per day

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Nicaragua prices to the cost of travel in Costa Rica


Money

Currency – Nicaraguan Córdoba

£1 = 36.75 NIO

€1 = 30.98 NIO

US$1 = 29.24 NIO

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

US Dollars are widely accepted as an alternative currency.


MFT Recommends

Travel insurance is important as always. We suggest using World Nomads, who offer good cover for backpackers.


Street art in Nicaragua

street art in Leon, Nicaragua


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Nicaragua recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.


Panama Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Panama

(Map of Panama from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Panama on a Shoestring Budget

US$35 | 35 Panamanian Balboa

As one of the richest countries in Central America, costs are generally a bit higher than most parts of the region. Our Panama backpacking budget of $35/day reflects that and it’s comparable to the cost of travel in Costa Rica, another of the more expensive countries in the region. If you’re coming to Panama directly from North America or Europe though, you’ll still most likely find it very cheap.

It’s not that difficult to stick to this kind of budget with tasty and cheap street food available all over the country, while tap water is safe here and you can save a few bucks by just filling up a bottle as you will need to drink lots of water given Panama is a very hot place.  The cost of accommodation is a bit higher than its Northern neighbours and the temptation to indulge in Panama’s nightlife, some of which is geared towards its wealthy visitors, can push your expenses up if you’re not careful but maintaining this budget and still having a good time is not impossible by any means.

See where Panama ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in Central America.


More Comfortable Panama Backpacker Budget

US$45 | 45 Panamanian Balboa

Panama is not like somewhere like Nicaragua or Guatemala, where the travel industry is almost entirely geared towards more budget-minded travellers. In Panama, there is the potential to indulge in a bit of luxury every now and then and by allowing for $45 per day you can do that. The extra $10 could go towards a nice meal at night in one of the many fancier restaurants or possibly a short stay in one of the nicer hotels or resorts. You will still have to be a bit savvy though, particularly in the capital which is a popular shopping destination so it’d be wise to set aside a separate budget for shopping.

The cost of some of the sites of interest and attractions is also relatively high for the region so if you’re the sort who likes to visit museums and cultural sites on a daily basis that can also push your costs up and $45/day may be a more realistic budget.


Sample Prices in Panama

Bus from Panama City to David (6-7 hours) – around $20

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $6

0.5 litre local beer in a bar or restaurant – $1.50

Dorm bed in Bocas del Toro – from $10

Private double or twin room in Panama City – from $25

Entrance to Miraflores Visitor Centre (Panama Canal) – $15

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Panama prices to the cost of travel in Mexico.


Money

Currency – Panamanian Balboa/US Dollar

£1 = 1.26 PAB

€1 = 1.06 PAB

US$1 = 1 PAB

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)

The US Dollar has been tied to the Panamanian Balboa since 1904. You can use either in Panama and essentially they are the same currency.


MFT Recommends

The Casa Monalisa is perfect for solo travellers in Panama City. Sociable place with budget beds.


Street art in Panama

street art in Panama City (via BORIS GCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Panama recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.