Are you champing at the bit? I am. I'm ready to do a lot more travel this year. Doing a lot means being careful with my budget. So, for you and for me, I have researched the best budget destinations for solo travelers.
To come up with our budget lists, we have reviewed recommendations from other publications (and eliminated many that did not meet our safety standards), consulted fellow travelers, including members of the Solo Travel Society, and put it all through a solo travel filter to come up with our top 5 budget destinations each year. We're a lot more careful when it comes to safety than many travel publications.
It should be noted that our suggestions are based primarily on research. We haven’t visited all these destinations so they are not personal endorsements.
Before you get too far in your planning process read Solo Travel Planning Guide with 2023 Trends, a Checklist, and Insider Tips. It will help in a variety of ways to make your planning easier and your trip more enjoyable.
My Top Tip to Save on Travel in 2023
My primary method to save on travel in 2023 is to use HomeExchange.com. Stop. Don't move on until you've read all of this because you will be surprised.
There are two ways to book accommodation on HomeExchange. You can trade your place for someone else's or you can use points. You start earning points as soon as you sign up. I have booked 4 nights in New York City with points earned during the sign-up process which cost US$175. So, even if you don't intend to have someone stay in your home, by signing up, you can earn enough points for some great accommodation.
But that's not all. I have booked the month of May in Bordeaux, France. Not just anywhere in Bordeaux: right in the heart of it near the city's cathedral. The value has to be about $10,000.00 in accommodation. Yes, I am very excited about this new way (for me) to save and enjoy a more local experience.
Here’s How Our Short List of Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers is Determined
We look at the following four criteria.
- Affordability. Naturally, the affordability of a destination depends upon your home currency. We’re based in Canada and our currency is low against just about every other western currency right now. However, most of the information below is given in US dollars, unless it says otherwise, as most of us know our exchange rates in relation to the US dollar.
- Cost of transportation. If the trip is short, the cost to get there is very important. If you’re planning a month or two in a destination, that cost is less significant as it will be prorated over a longer period of time.
- Safety. I’ve listed the US and Canadian government advice as of January 2023 for each destination. Most of the budget travel destination lists I've reviewed have not included this information. While it needs to be placed in context, we’ve decided to share it here. At the time this list was created, I chose destinations with a maximum rating of “exercise a high degree of caution.” Please read the section on understanding government ratings for more on what this means.
- Will it be interesting and fun? A great destination offers access to a new culture, fun things to do, or both. I’ve given you a very brief overview of both for each recommendation.
Check out our recommendations for budget destinations for solo travelers from previous years below. A number of them are still good bets.
Fundamentals for Finding a Budget Destination
Here are two fundamentals for finding a budget destination.
- Go where the crowds are not. I wrote about overtourism in How and Where to Travel to Avoid the Crowds. You'll save money if you don't travel to hotspots or choose to go in the shoulder or low season. It's basic supply and demand. The more tourists, the higher demand, the higher the prices are.
- Go to places that have endured hard times. Destinations that have endured financial or natural disasters such as hurricanes are usually less traveled and welcome tourist dollars. This pushes prices down and makes your tourist dollar all the more appreciated. It might be a rare chance to visit an overcrowded destination when it’s not crowded at all.
Understanding Government Travel Advice and Advisories
Governments create travel advice and advisory alerts for the sake of their citizens who are planning to travel to other countries. Both Canada and the US have a 4-tier rating system. While a country may receive one overall rating, specific areas within it may receive a different rating to indicate regionally specific concerns. These may be related to natural disasters, safety and security, health hazards, etc. This allows you to avoid areas that may pose a higher risk.
While the language varies slightly between the two countries, basically, the four levels are:
- Exercise normal security precautions. There is some inherent risk in any international travel, but there are no significant safety and security concerns here.
- Exercise a high degree of caution. There are identifiable safety and security concerns, or the safety and security situation could change with little notice. (To put this in perspective, Canada currently rates 92 countries as Level 2, and both countries rate the United Kingdom as Level 2.)
- Avoid non-essential travel. There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk.
- Avoid all travel. There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security.
Levels 1 and 2 are considered travel advice while levels 3 and 4 are considered travel advisories.
This distinction is important as there is a possibility that the validity of your travel insurance could be impacted if your country issues a travel advisory for the country to which you are traveling. Always read the fine print of your insurance policy and check your government’s advice before leaving home. You can easily find this by searching “government of (your home country) travel advice” then searching within that site for your destination country. Also read Going Alone? A Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers
None of the destinations on this year's shortlist have travel advisories at time of writing.
The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2023
Note: For consistency, all flight prices listed were found on Google Flights and depart from Toronto or New York during the last week of February with a return date two weeks later. Use your own home airport to see what you’d have to pay for flights. The room rates listed are for the same time period and were found on booking.com. All were checked during the week of this post’s publication. The hotels and hostels are not personal recommendations. They were chosen based on their price, review scores, and central location and are intended to give you an idea of what you can get for your money. Unless otherwise indicated, all prices are in US dollars.
Best Budget Solo Travel Destination for a European Experience: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is a small city, rich with a wide range of architecture that reflects both its current state and its diverse past. It’s a city that is not yet inundated with tourists.
In Ljubljana I felt like I was in Italy 50 years ago. It has all the charm but few of the tourists. The historic center of Ljubljana includes a castle that dates back to the 11th century though the buildings you'll see are more from the 16th century. In the city center is an extensive pedestrian zone that winds through buildings that are hundreds of years old. A walking tour of the city is a must.
There is also the Alternative District that has graffiti everywhere and people just hanging out or playing music. If you want a feel for how some of the youth of Ljubljana live, and where young travelers gravitate, Hostel Celica Art is worth a look, or a stay.
Affordability: A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about US$3.15. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly US$10.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about US$13.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CA$901.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$590.00.
- US Government: Level 1 Exercise Normal Precautions
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
The 2023 Budget Destination for Fun in South America: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is another top destination for solo travelers on a budget. One of our readers loved Buenos Aires so much that she moved there. It's known as the Paris of the South with interesting neighborhoods that combine European and South American style. And then, there's the tango. That's what got our reader hooked on Argentina. She took lessons at home, went a few times to experience the origins of the dance, and then moved.
The cost of living in Buenos Aires is, generally, 45% cheaper than North America yet it is expensive when compared to other cities in Argentina. A good bet is to take their affordable train system and enjoy the country including heading south to amazing Patagonia.
Affordability: In Buenos Aires, a beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $3.18. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $9.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $22.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CA$1,139.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$985.00.
- US Government: Level 1 Exercise Normal Precautions
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
Top Budget Solo Travel Destination North America: Savannah, Georgia
I always like to include one North American destination and this year it is Savannah, Georgia.
Savannah’s Historic District is famous, but there is also the architecture in the Victorian District and the hip Starland District, all within the downtown area. Venture a little further to Savannah’s quiet Lowcountry in the Moon River District.
In an exchange with members of the Solo Travel Society about travel inspiration, Christy said: “I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, set in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve always had an interest in the South. This book was full of eccentric characters. I was so intrigued, by both the people and the town of Savannah, that I went!”
Affordability: It's the low cost of getting to Savannah and the low cost of hotels compared to other US cities that makes Savannah affordable as a destination for solo travelers on a budget. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about US$6.00. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly US$22.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about US$18.00.
Accommodation: While the hotels/hostels are more expensive in Savannah than other destinations listed, the cost to get there is much lower for most readers. If you drive, you won't need accommodation as central as I have chosen and can definitely save a lot per night. Here is a hotel in the historic district for US$140.00. I did not find a hostel in Savannah.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CA$515.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$118.00.
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
- According to Travellers Worldwide, there are parts of the city to avoid.
The 2023 Solo Travel Budget Destination for Adventure: Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech is a perfect launching point for travel in Morocco.
The city itself is both modern and very traditional. The walled medieval city dates to the Berber Empire. There are mosques, palaces, gardens, and, of course, the Medina which is where I bought both a painting and a wall hanging. Don't miss the Majorelle Garden and Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
Once there, it is certainly worth exploring beyond Marrakech. There is an affordable train service to take you far beyond the city limits to the town and beaches of Essaouira as well as all the major cities along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.
Affordability: A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about US$3.79. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly US$3.92. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $5.29.
Accommodation: In Marrakech you have a lot of options from affordable stays for golf to more cultural experiences in the city center. Here is a fairly central, modern hotel for US$68.00 that has an 8.6 rating. Here is a hostel with an 8.8 rating, rooftop dining, and more.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at $1,022.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$668.00.
- US Government: Level 2 Exercise Increased Caution
- Canadian Government: Level 2 Exercise a high degree of caution
- Both countries advise to avoid travel in border regions of Western Sahara.
Best Southeast Asia Budget Destination for History and Nature: Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan is one of the few countries in southeast Asia that is safe according to our governments as well as inexpensive. Singapore is actually less expensive than Taiwan and equally safe but does not offer travelers the same diversity of experiences. This is why I went with Taiwan.
A movie, I can't remember which one, turned me on to Taiwan's natural beauty. An article on BBC Travel increased my interest in this island nation. In fact, they wrote “Taiwan's East Coast Highway is easily one of East Asia's most beautiful spots for cycling.” That says a lot! The country also offers Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian temples, hot springs, and a cuisine influenced by the culinary traditions of Taiwan's aboriginal people, Chinese settlers, and the Japanese who ruled the island for 50 years. The city of Taipei is your point of entry, offering dramatic buildings, amazing shopping, and night markets.
Affordability: A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about US$6.00. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $8.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $7.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CA$1,418.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$1,023.00.
- US Government: Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2021/22
Top Budget Destination for Solo Travelers Africa: Windhoek, Namibia
I have friends who have fallen so in love with Namibia that they return again and again and now lead tours there for friends and acquaintances.
When asked if Namibia would qualify as a safe, interesting, inexpensive (once you get there) destination for a solo traveler, Jan said, “Absolutely! It has been a democratic country for almost three decades. With high unemployment, there is petty crime in Windhoek and one should exercise caution after dark, take taxis, etc., as in any large city. The country is safe for driving holidays; has a good infrastructure, water as well as roads; and one can drink water from the faucet.”
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 11.70 Namibian Dollars. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost approximately $13.00. A beer in a neighborhood pub will set you back roughly $2.25. A 5-mile taxi ride runs about $8.50.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1,247.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$1,074.00.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Namibia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Namibia due to the high level of crime.
Top Budget Destination Asia: Yerevan, Armenia
I have wanted to travel to Armenia for a very long time, ever since falling in love with the films of Atom Egoyan. Armenia has a lengthy, interesting history, incredible landscapes, and delicious cuisine – not to mention being home to the world’s oldest known winery.
Take a walking tour of the city to see and hear about the history, architecture, art and culture of Yerevan, including Republic Square, the Blue Mosque, the Opera House, the National Gallery and the History Museum of Armenia. Climb the stairs of the Cascade for sweeping views of the city. Picnic in Lover’s Park; tour the Ararat distillery and taste the famous brandy; visit the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute; take a day tour to Geghard to see the medieval monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site; and in warm weather, take a seat on an outdoor patio to enjoy the atmosphere and a delicious dinner.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 470 Armenian Drams. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $1.83. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $3.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $3.87.
Here is a hotel for US$55.00, very close to the center, but set back from the main road, and including breakfast. Here is a hostel with a 9.8/10 rating for $8.00 in an 8-bed dorm or $16.00 for a private room.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1713.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$874.00.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Armenia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Armenia due to occasional demonstrations and protests.
- Both countries advise against travel to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Top Budget Destination for Solo Travelers Europe: Tirana, Albania
Declared “The City Poised to Become Europe’s Next Affordable Creative Haven” by The New York Times, Tirana is the capital city of Albania. Art galleries and museums, including the intriguing House of Leaves; Ottoman, Fascist and Soviet-era architecture along with modern glass structures; the 289 hectare Grand Park; and bars and restaurants featuring a mixture of Greek, Turkish and Italian along with traditional Albanian cuisine are just some of the reasons to visit this fascinating city surrounded by castles, ruins, and Mount Dajti National Park.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 101 Albanian Leke. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost about $8.92. A cappuccino in an expat area, roughly $1.56. A monthly ticket for public transportation runs around $16.70.
Here is a boutique hotel for US$43.00, including breakfast, within walking distance of downtown. Here is a hostel for $12.00 in a 4-bed dorm or $43 for a private room, with breakfast available for $3.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1,135.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$904.00
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Albania.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Albania.
- Both countries advise avoiding travel to the southern city of Lazarat due to crime.
Top Budget Destination North America: St. John’s, Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s most easterly province is home to friendly people, rugged coastline, and gorgeous scenery. The capital of St. John’s, one of the oldest cities in North America, is colorful, with its jellybean houses, vibrant arts community, tasty culinary scene, and personality to spare.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about $1.27 Canadian Dollars. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $5.50. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $10.20. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $15.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$782.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$623.00. Note: these prices are almost double last year.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Canada.
- Canadian Government: Sit yourself down while I make you a cup of tea.
Top Budget Destination South America: La Paz, Bolivia
This description from The Guardian sealed the deal for me in terms of placing La Paz on this year’s shortlist of destinations for solo travelers on a budget.
An amalgam of architectural styles, cultures and beliefs, it has everything from offerings to the goddess Pachamama to incense-filled colonial churches, food stalls to trendy cafes, bowler-hatted cholitas to hipsters among its theatrical street life. It’s frenetic, chaotic, often frustrating but never dull. More than ever, it’s championing its culture, from local artists to age-old crafts. There’s a gastronomic revolution under way, with restaurants that use only Bolivian produce and bars that mix homegrown spirits. And Mi Teleférico, the world’s longest and highest urban cable car network, is making it easier to get around the city.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 5.41 Bolivian Bolivianos. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost about $12.75. A beer in a neighborhood pub will be roughly $3.88, and a 5-mile taxi ride, $17.37.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1100.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$845.00.
- US Government: Exercise increased caution in Bolivia due to civil unrest.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Bolivia due to the continuing political and social tensions and frequent illegal roadblocks throughout the country.
The Shortlist of Budget Solo Travel Destinations 2019
#1 Budget Destination for 2019: South Korea?
South Korea and Fiji were both mentioned on more than one budget travel short list for 2019 but when I compared the cost to get there, there was no competition. Flights to Fiji were three times the cost of those to South Korea. And when comparing the cost on the ground, Fiji was again far more expensive. South Korea was the winner hands down.
Affordability: 1 US dollar is about 1,100 South Korean Won (SKW). When you're purchasing something, to make it easy just consider 1,000 SKW to equal US$1. According to Expatistan, Seoul is 10% less expensive than Toronto and 30% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in Seoul. Here’s a sample of a highly-rated hotel you’d get for about US$95 that's in the center of the city. Here’s the central hostel with an 8.5 rating for US$38.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$755. From New York City, return flights start at US$526.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
Interesting and fun: While I based the above information on Seoul, there is so much more to South Korea than its capital city. There are mountains and beaches, great diving, and hiking for outdoor enthusiasts. And, of course, there's a fascinating history over many centuries to be found in modern cities and more traditional villages. A little bit of research and you'll know why it's a great destination.
Best European Budget Destination for 2019: Łódź (pronounced woodge), Poland
When I saw this city on a budget destination list I just had to check it out to see if it would be right for solo travelers too. Eastern Europe is a bargain compared to Western Europe. It has much of what the west has to offer and more. Poland's culture is a product of its geography. It's had West Slav, Germanic, Hungarian and, to some extent, Western European, Byzantine, and Ottoman influence. It has fascinated me for some time.
Affordability: 1 PLN is about 25 US cents. That's an estimate. So, in managing your money on the ground, divide a price by four and you'll know the approximate price in US$. Łódź is 53% less expensive than Toronto and 68% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in Łódź. Here's a centrally located B&B/Hotel on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.9 for US$37. Hostels are even cheaper.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$1,106 non-stop or CAN$975 with a stop. The extra $31 is worth it. From New York City, return flights start at US$570 non-stop or US$440 with a stop in Oslo, Norway. These are fairly normal flight costs to Europe from North America.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Poland
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Poland.
Interesting and fun: Łódź is Poland's third largest city. It fell into into decline after WWII but since 2000 it has been reinventing itself. It's now famous for its architecture, street art, museums, and art galleries. The centerpiece of the restoration is EC1 which was the Łódź power plant. The east side of this building serves as a cultural space hosting workshops, art exhibitions, and other cultural events as well as a Planetarium and the National Centre for Film Culture. EC1 West houses an interactive Centre for Science & Technology and a 3D Omnimax Cinema complex.
Best Budget Destination to Commemorate a Major Event: Houston
Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Were you alive? I was. I saw the landing on a TV outside at Girl Guide camp. We could look at the moon and watch the TV at the same time. That was 50 years ago this year and Houston is celebrating, which is why this destination makes my budget bucket list. Visitors to Space Center Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Center get to imagine they are witnessing the history-making events from the Mission Operations Control Room and others which have been restored to their 1969 appearance, complete with vintage furniture. Read further for more budget options for solo-friendly Houston.
Affordability: Houston is 10% less expensive than Toronto and 38% less than New York City. Hotel accommodation is neither cheap nor expensive in Houston but is offset by the number of free things to do in the city. Here's a Hotel in the city center on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.3 for US$120. However, I found great deals on VRBO. This is a self-contained apartment for one or two with great reviews for $59. One thing to note about booking on VRBO is the cleaning fee. VRBO is not a great option for only one night.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$631 non-stop. From New York City, return flights start at US$209 non-stop.
Safety: Exercise normal precautions.
Interesting and fun: The 50th anniversary of the giant leap for mankind is a great reason to visit Houston but there is more. A great starting point is Houston’s Museum District, which has 19 museums within walking distance: 10 of them are always free and the others offer special free days. For a full list of free things to do in Houston check out this page.
Best Budget Caribbean Destination: Puerto Rico
It's been just over a year since Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria but the island is ready for tourists again. It's an affordable Caribbean destination with beaches and an interesting history. It's a destination to enjoy and one that would benefit from your travel dollars.
Affordability: The local currency is the US$ so we don't have a conversion to consider with this destination. San Juan, Puerto Rico is 6% less expensive than Toronto and 35% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in San Juan. Here's a centrally located guest house on Booking.com with an overall rating of 9.1 for US105. Hostels are even cheaper. I also found a studio apartment near the beach with excellent reviews on VRBO.com for US$55, VRBO is favorite site of mine.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$475 with one stop. From New York City, return flights start at US$235 non-stop.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Puerto Rico.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Puerto Rico.
Interesting and fun: The island has enjoyed Spanish, African, Indian, and U.S. influence, which, according to Puerto Rico's visitor bureau, is mirrored in the food, music, and architecture of the island. San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, has a free trolley that will take you around San Juan and its National Historic Sites but you could spend a full day exploring the walled city of Old San Juan alone. Beaches are the ultimate budget travel activity and Puerto Rico has many wonderful beaches to relax on or explore. Puerto Rico is on the migration path of humpback whales. January to the end of March is the best time for whale watching.
Best Budget Destination in South America: Argentina
Argentina has spectacular natural wonders including Glaciers National Park, El Chalten, and Iguazu Falls, all bucket list destinations for the adventure travelers. But, of course, there's Buenos Aires and the tango! And then there are gauchos, Argentinian cowboys. Yes, there's much to make Argentina an exciting destination for any traveler, budget or otherwise. While other countries in South America may be cheaper, Argentina is one that has the safety rating I was looking for.
Affordability: 1 Argentinian peso is about 2.5 US cents. That's an estimate. So, in managing your money on the ground, divide a price by forty and you'll know the approximate price in US$. Buenos Aires is 59% less expensive than Toronto and 71% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in Buenos Aires. Here's a centrally located guest house on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.9 for US$89 including breakfast..Here's a hostel with a rating of 8.4 for US$13.50 for a single bed in a four-bed, female dorm. And that includes breakfast. If you'd like an apartment I found this fabulous, 5-star unit on VRBO for US$78/night.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$1095 non-stop. From New York City, return flights start at US$627 non-stop.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Argentina.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Argentina.
Interesting and fun: There are lots of free and cheap things to do in Buenos Aires. There are, of course, free tours to enjoy but plenty more. Go to the Mataderos Fair, a Gaucho market on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and see the gauchos show off their skills; take a walk through the 80 hectare woods at the Bosques de Palermo; or explore the graffiti in the northern suburbs. If you're in the neighborhood of Belgrano on a Sunday, go to the bandstand at Barrancas de Belgrano park for the free tango lessons from 7 pm. You can then watch the experts perform for a fee.